AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

The Night of a Thousand Hugs

Words: Ronnie Jack aka Solar Santa / Images: Ronnie Jack (unless otherwise shown)

Solar Santa winds up AfrikaBurn 2019

“Shameless self promotion” declares Travis. As head of Communications for AfrikaBurn, he should know. Her name is Jennifer. Spelt with a “J” and no abbreviations please. She is a pretty girl who has politely chatted to me in the very early hours of the morning. It’s Decompression and we are sitting outside the clubhouse at the Killarney Race Track. After telling her about my published blog stories Kettles tells me that such advertising is not allowed. The principle banning it is called decommodification. So I seek a ruling from the elegantly clad Travis. I plead that it is the Burn that is being promoted on the website, not the author. The girl is gone so the decision is moot.

Meet Abi. Commander of the income and expenditure of tens of millions of Rand. An accountant. Being one myself I expect a stiff upper lip and a haughty demeanor. This normally commands respect so they can charge hefty fees. But this one is different. Very different. She is wearing headphones and is in the upstairs pub playing DJ to the party throng. Well selected music and big sound. And displaying great tattoos. But I can tell you she commands respect from the HQ bigwigs, even when they try their luck spending the pennies. More about her later but first there’s some stories to tell.
It is preparation day at Killarney for the Decompression bash. One short day before the gates open. Monique, the Goddess of the Tankwa, strides imperiously among her hand chosen troops. Except me. I’m intruding, but they are polite. No gilded throne for this special lady. Soon I am enlisted into the holy circle. Rubbing shoulders with the Goddess herself. We have a special assignment along with the entire crew. Picking up every tiny bit of MOOP before anything is built!! Skoonskip. About a million cigarette butts and bottle tops later the red carpets are rolled out, the lights installed and the stretch tents rise into the sky.
Meet some of my hard working heroes. They make it all happen.
Sonica – Special events coordinator:
Pauli – Ace electrician:

Faldelah – All round Mother Goose. Nobody hungry when she and Bongi are around:

Shannon – Operations coordination:

Sam – The Boss:

Bash – Electrical specialist:

Brian – Operations:

Matt – All things beautiful (see streamers):

Jon is a Zimbabwean. An artist with a Fine Arts degree. With a twist. His Baobab artwork is getting lights installed. I learn as we work that his degree is from Canada. Knowing that there’s not much snow in Zim the challenges he had to overcome to eke out a living are even more meritworthy. His art tells the story of the declining baobab population. Thousands of years old, they’re in trouble.
Jon, the artist:

Burners are special people. Zukiswa and Kenneth are Burn friends.  She liked my Tokoloshe story. He wants four wives but Zukiswa’s not having it.

The Tim is my host. As always anything that goes wrong is his fault. So he is constantly busy fixing things in the electronic arena. The night is nearly over and my bed too far away to walk home. I seek him out to find out what time the last train leaves the station. He has the keys. I don’t find him which is a blessing in disguise. Roaming the many nooks and crannies both inside and outside I pass multitudes of people. And get hugs every few minutes from Burn friends from even two years ago. Magic. The combination of pixie dust and my painted boots.
A three hour box office stint is volunteered. Quicket provide scanners and dinky wifi connected computers which scan barcodes before wristbands are issued. Security is ironclad. No band, no entry, no exceptions. The beautiful Burners of Cape Town arrive in great numbers. All are dressed in their finery, many illuminated in interesting ways. All in happy mood. The surprising discovery is that most tickets are on cellphones. The scanner likes the backlighting turned up high. After hundreds of scans I‘m an authority on cracked screens. I meet Queen Bon Bon among many Cape royalty. Fun way to meet interesting people. Working alongside me are Ashleigh and Mina, all the way from Iran. Experts on the system.
My heart leaps. Standing in front of me with her cellphone ticket is Foxy Lady. I can’t believe it. Of all the people I want to meet tonight it is her. We met in the desert a month ago. She appeared out of the darkness in the wee hours with Anthony, my wheelchair bound hero. Her beautiful face is matched by her beautiful heart and she wore a stunning fox headdress with illuminated eyes. Tonight she does not wear it. I do not know her real name and she pretends to have never met me. Beautiful women must be hit on all the time so I understand her reticence. But I crack the steel barrier when I remind her that she told me in that dark desert night all men are 30 years old. I’m an old fossil and unwittingly she handed me the elixir of youth. She has magic powers and does not know it. I put on her armband and she disappears into the party throng not to be seen again.
The famous Abi grabs me outside in the big music tent. Her new role is Head of the Fashion Police. I’m getting a yellow ticket: ‘Notice to Appear for Fabulosity’. The painted boots and the Santa bonnet match the bright red jacket. Chance to win a prize in the Best Dressed lineup on the big stage. Despite my best efforts the gorgeous girls win all the prizes. More lights, more dress effort and more sex appeal. And outnumbered ten to one. But fun to share the stage with such fabulous company.
The big show is left for last. The beautiful girls have been practicing for weeks. The burlesque is a perennial hit. No body shaming on these shows. Big bottomed girls make the world go around just as much as the thin ones. All get big rounds of applause when tassels are twirled or sexy moves are made. Lady Magnolia brings the house down with her ostrich feathers and a gorgeous body. Long legs and hours in the gym? The Tim won’t let me take one of the gorgeous girls home.
Travis wrote a wonderful story about Bongi. You’ll find it here. A lady who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps, and now graces Burn HQ with her work ethic and broad smile. I meet her when she feeds the DPW and art crew busy setting up the infrastructure for the weekend. Which she does tirelessly for 3 full days. With more like her we can create the kind of South Africa we would like to live in.

I end with a personal note. My knee is a wreck. The orthopaedic surgeon is waiting for me with a metal replacement. The two weeks at Tankwa Town coupled with the last 3 days have ensured that I have used up the last of the old bones. My emotional batteries are full thanks to all my Burn friends and the thousand hugs. I thank all of you for the love and support. Know that when I have a new knee I shall enjoy dancing with all of the pretty girls on the Binnekring.
Big hugs,
Solar Santa.
July 2019.

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