AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

Allegory In The Binnekring

(words & photos: Yeldarb Renso)

Your soul will sometimes scream at you that you need to get away, that you need to get out of your known world, that you need freedom; true freedom. For all of its beauty and complexity, our society has in some respects become a sick perverse version of what life really should be.
Awaking in the dark, driving to work in the dark, an hour later the sun is up, and you’re sitting at your desk, you’re going to be there for another 8 hours, you look up from your screen to wipe your eyes, to look at what; one of those fucking office divider things, you sneak out the office slightly early to avoid the godforsaken Johannesburg traffic; great success, by some incredulous goddam miracle, you seem to have just missed it, open road, but alas no. As you slide your way onto the M1, tragedy engulfs you at the realisation; some wanker in a truck has broken down in the middle lane and yet again…those familiar red lights, this is your life. Well may I just say; fuck that. It is no surprise that occasionally your soul will screams at you; you need to get the hell out of dodge, leave your desk and your costing reports behind and just be a human being for a while. So you make your way into the desert. You’ll like it in the desert. It’s clean there. It’s pure. It’s as if thousands of years of scorching sun have bleached away all the perversion and it is there that you can truly exist.
I begun my second journey to AfrikaBurn, on a plane to Cape Town with a pillow, a small carry-on backpack and a silver hard-case stowed away in the hold; reading a copy of ‘American Psycho’. The antithesis between the place waiting for me in the desert and the story of Pat Bateman couldn’t be greater; a Wall Street banker with a penchant for Oliver People’s glasses and Valentino suits, a man with a sharp wit who’s plagued by the occasional whim to see a supermodel’s head on the end of a stick. Surely an interesting choice of literature on my way to a place renowned for its undiscriminating unequivocal love… Nevertheless I continue, so much for leaving perversions behind.
As we’re landing I have my inevitable argument with a pushy air hostess, ‘no, my fucking Kindle is not going to somehow magically interrupt the plane’s landing gear.’ Nevertheless I flip the switch and leave the plane in a huff. This happens to me way too much.
There is definitely a distinction between a burner that’s been in the desert for a couple of days, and a wannabe that’s just arrived. Sure, I want to be in the vibe running around the desert, hugging hippies left-right and centre, but as you arrive you just are not* and you can’t really force the issue. It takes a while for the shroud from our restrained lives, clouding our perceptions, to clear and for us to realise; hey wait a second, there are no rules here, other than don’t impose on anyone else’s vibe and don’t put any supermodel’s heads on the ends of any sticks; awesome! Your first night is the obol; the fee you must pay to the desert for the sins of your former life, your sacrifice to the sands, so that you can leave behind your suit and tie and may enter your new life. But once the boatman has been paid, he will carry your soul into a new dimension; you are now a burner.
I awake to the vast expansive skies of the desert; they open up from horizon to horizon, skies of a thousand hues, skies that are your muse, for bewilderment and beauty and pure epicurean enjoyment. You have stepped through the window, you are in Elysium.
The truth is that I didn’t come to the desert for a haircut, nor did I come here for pure epicurean enjoyment alone, nay as I have said, my soul has literally been screaming at me to get away from the concrete and responsibilities, and find my true self once more: this trip is supposed to be my spirit quest. Forever a mycophile, I am forced to embark on a recon mission into the desert. A Moses mission for the acquisition of the fruit of the gods if you will. A question that may normally cause eyebrows to rise, in this sacred place, is no more strange then asking someone the location of the men’s room.
The day is drawing on, the sun is moving into its finally swan song, we prepare a few G & T’s for the sunset. You can feel that familiar energy in the air, something is going on… We assemble our A-team, a fivesome of myself, Carlosito, Krausie, George 1 and George 2 (both Ghorheys are girls, lol). We enter the Binnekring dressed to the hilt, Mohawks and fur coats, face paint and ninja outfits, we are absolutely tingling, primed and ready to get wild!!! Hev it!!!

We progress around the Binnekring, revelling in its diverse ridiculousness, and at some point George 1 pushes us into this Desert Movie theatre. Weirdly. Well why not, we’ll give it a few minutes. So I’m sitting in this desert cinema, but it’s as if I’m no longer me, I’ve become Draper, sitting in the back row of a 1960s movie house, smoking a cigarette, the smoke rising, obstructing the screen as it wafts through the light from the projector. I look around, I’m surrounded by beautiful people, and ‘The Sound of Music’ is playing on the screen; it’s the scene where each of the children are introducing themselves to the nanny, it must be said a script of absolute mastery. I inhale deeply on the cigarette and the girl sitting diagonally in front of me, accidentally touches my calf as she leans back, I look across and smile at her, she smiles at me; and her hand lingers for a moment, she looks away but I carry on looking; her profile lit up by the light reflected from the screen, it would seem that I’m accidentally sitting next to a goddess? My crew drags me from the cinema; my god I have missed this place.
Our journey continues onto a dance floor that I can only describe as a scene from the garden of Eden, the song playing in harmonic-glory from some respectable yet dusty desert speakers; ‘Tell me why’. ‘Tell me whyyy!!! Tell me why!!!!!!’ You know the one, in what could not have been in greater glaring contrast, to our short stint through ‘The Sound of Music’, was the perfect transition. The music brought us dumbfounded out of our savasana, into uncontrolled dance. I look at our merry fivesome and then at our fellow burners on the floor, everyone and I mean absolutely everyone is smiling from ear to ear.
We really just can’t help it, I seem to be smiling the most, my body beginning this weird uncontrolled spontaneous hopping to tell me why. We’ve gone down the rabbit hole and landed in the land of daffodils and floral beats. You have arrived, and you are loved. We’re dying to stay for another track, but the journey must continue, although I’m yearning to hear where the DJ can go to from here??
We’ve somehow teleported our way out of the desert, into an underground train station in Berlin, techno booming from a one-helluva impressive array of speakers, each with their own car. A place aptly named The Spirit Train. We have the spirit, yes we fucking do… We immerse ourselves into the crowd, we’ve become part of this nameless throng of smiling men and women, gyrating to a monotony of beats and high-hats and synth. A triumph of electronic sounds booms in grandiose hyperbolic gain to shake the throng into ecstasy. I get lost in the techno, the music is in itself a journey, our journey continues but it’s within the music. There are no easily differentiable tracks; the tunes blend into a cacophony of glorious sounds with elements from previous tracks always finding their way back in throughout the set. Slowly the DJ brings you back more and more, to that one sound, of that one track, that same melody burning its image into your mind, and then finally, at the very fucking apex; he drops it, waaaaaaaaaa. The throng explodes, people are literally jumping in the fucking air. We have become goddam animals again, or rather we have become human beings. We exist.

The night draws on, its starting to get a bit nips, but the body heat of my fellow burners keeps me warm. You can’t help smiling, this is just bloody lekker… You have genuine love for these strangely dressed people jigging around in the desert. It’s just a cool little thing in the Karoo really, with some great people, and a couple interesting conversations and, thrown in there, a few mind blowing, life changing experiences. I look around me at all these smiling faces and then it hits me; sometimes you just need that reminder, that you are great, that you are in the right place, that there is indeed still hope. I came into the desert searching for a revelation, to find out something new about myself. In all honesty, the lesson was nothing new, but it was an essential reminder, and this desert is the catalyst, it removes the shroud of self doubt and fear and bullshit eking its way in from our perverse society, and as that fog recedes you start to see the words slowly appearing in the skyline, words etched into those desert clouds that have become your muse, the words: you are amazing, you are beautiful, you are incredible, and one day; you are going to change the world.

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