AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

Painted Boots and a Beard ~ Part 1

 Writing and pictures by Solar Santa.

The adventures of Solar Santa at the Burn 2019 in no particular order

It is first light. The cherry picker is high in the sky and the DPW (Department of Public Works) electrician hard at work connecting the lights on 6ish. Delighted to be back on sacred Tankwa soil I stroll down the road for a photo. Zooming in on my fellow early morning riser I ask for a smile. He leans over the side of the cupola and snarls: “F*ck off. I’m busy”. Whoops. I forgot DPW volunteers are chosen for their attitude. They are extremely productive folk with no time for social discourse.
028-300x225-2163962 AutomaticFeeling miffed I head back to camp. An angel steps out of a caravan on what is to be the site of the Tankwa Town Library. One of the neighbours of the Power of the Sun. Shazelle is a warm lady with a pleasant smile. I ask her if her outfit is for a nun or an angel. She chooses the latter. My faith in Tankwa hospitality restored I thank the DPW crewman mentally for the contrast. My human sensors have been recalibrated sharply upwards.
It is dark with no moon. I am wearing a Santa bonnet and a red jacket gifted by Eleen. A beautiful young lady steps into the bright lights of my camp accompanied by a big guy. She bursts into song. A lovely liedjie: “Hier kom die kabouter met die rooi hoed aan….” Laurine is a nursery school teacher who teaches little kids to sing the poem. Enchanted I ask her to write it out for me. A day later we meet by chance at the naked shower for a wash when she fulfils her promise. Her husband Jaco is not fussed by her embracing bearded old strangers. He is a lucky man.
The monster music camps have thundered all night. They fall silent as the sun rises. The soothing music of a flute drifts in on the still morning air. Intrigued, I cycle in search of the source. Rohdi Ann is making breakfast. I ask her if I may take a photo of the musician while he is playing. She laughs and Fearless Leader Anton stops playing to introduce himself. He is a quiet, smiling man who is not bothered by my disturbance. Photo secured he continues to share his talents with a sleeping town. I make friends with these beautiful people and am rewarded in unexpected ways in the days ahead.

Camping with Rohdi Ann and Anton is Steve. From Nevada. An alfalfa farmer – 360 kilometres from Las Vegas he tells me. He has taken three long-distance flights and a road journey to make it to Tankwa Town. He gets here thanks to winning a prize at an auction. But the magic emerges when he hauls out his trusty guitar, harmonica and tambourine. The boy can sing and the songs he has written himself. He laughs that he lives in a desert and has travelled halfway around the world to another. Only at the Burn will I be lucky enough to meet him and to enjoy his wonderful music.
A man named Jonx has many beautiful photos on the Burn website. I want to meet this man of talent but do not know where to start. No need to worry, the pixie dust takes care of it. He finds me! Once again it is first light and Tankwa Town is asleep. A lone figure strolls down 6ish with a camera bag. Forgetting my manners I challenge him. “Who are you”, I ask rudely. Unfazed he smiles quietly. “Jonx” he answers. You cannot explain the serendipity that happens all the time at the Burn.
The Tim arrives in his bakkie to find out if I have survived the big winds of the previous day. Anthony joins us to request an aircraft delivery from Cape Town. He has lost his car keys!! I tell him I have suffered the same fate for 3 dreadful days. But I remembered my mother teaching me to ask Saint Anthony for lost things. I tell him to say a small prayer to the saint on the way back to his camp. While talking to Tim I tell him about a beautiful lady giving me a huge chemical induced kiss on the lips while out on the binnekring last night. Anthony hears this and promises the same if he finds his keys. Not two hours later he arrives back smiling from ear to ear. “F*ck it”, he says, “I’m not going to kiss you but I’ve found my keys”.  Saint Anthony never fails, particularly at the Burn.
I dedicate these stories to someone who you will probably never meet. In a selfish world, it is amazing to find such a rare creature. Meet the Goddess of the Tankwa. Monique is her name and she is all but invisible. She will not be comfortable being exposed here because she does not crave the limelight. But she is too magnificent to remain unknown. Co-creator of the Burn from inception a dozen years ago her vision, drive and sheer persistence have produced a major miracle.
We live in a broken country with too many people determined to break down anything good. Fuelled by greed and stupidity the spiral is sickenly downward. With this as background how refreshing to have an extraordinary oasis in the harshest of environments where 13000 people can simply forget the default world and rediscover their humanity. The fact that so many travel so far from all over the world means that our secret is out. This is the best place to be for one week in the year no matter what you do for a living or where you are from. The ideal Planet Earth meets Tankwa Town. And all thanks to Monique and her special team.
End of part 1
You are in the default world. Get back to work dear reader. Or, Part 2 can be found here.
Want more Solar Santa?
Check out last year’s story. 

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