Story and Pics by Ronnie Jack
The long wait is over. After three painful years AfrikaBurn is back.
As nearly a thousand miles lie behind me the dreaded R355 shakes my car to pieces and covers me in dust once again. Two slow hours roll by and Die Hek is in sight. I’m home once again. The sign at the gate says it all.
The sky gods are angry at my arrival. The wind and dust make it near impossible to pitch my tent. Tim from the Tree of Stories pops by to help. I decline. If I can’t pitch my own tent I’m not a real Burner. The wind does not abate for all the following day. Then Friday arrives and the sky gods are happy once again. For the next ten days the most glorious sunny and wind free weather arrives. Unbelievable.
Cathy is the new Theme Camp Coordinator.
She sites me in a glorious space between Bob and the Beatles and Ain’t Misbehaving. 4-ish and Elastic Avenue is my new larney address. Each neighbour provide essential help when I need it. But more about that later.
I enjoy a trailer this time around. It is loaded with the Power of the Sun gear. And makes life much easier. The 500 watts of solar panels are heavy and are soon at work when their legs are bolted on and staked down. Sunlight is one fuel an old pensioner can afford. The inverter, controller and battery are safely stowed in the trailer and simply wired to the power station and the tent. Unlike Eskom we have pure power and more importantly are totally reliable. Load shedding (blackouts) never happens for the entire duration of our stay.
I meet Louis. He’s the workaholic builder of the very impressive dance floor for Ain’t Misbehaving. He uses over a thousand screws to hold it all down and his battery powered screwdrivers essential for the task. No prizes for guessing what charged the batteries. Sunbeams from the Power of the Sun.
Shawn and Sara are my best neighbours from Bob and the Beatles.
Their huge stretch tent provides shelter from the blazing sun and their music from my generation. Their floor is completely covered in carpets and their foam mattresses and cushions regularly visited by me. At 3 o clock every day their team roll out juice with ice for all the weary sunburnt passersby. A major attraction along with biscuits and marshmallows. When I suffer a water crisis they generously supply as much as I need for the duration of my stay. Their happy camp is testimony to their gracious generosity.
As an extra feature of the Power of the Sun power station we add a miniature art gallery with handouts for mementoes. The star of the show is Anthony Koeslag’s stunning watercolour panoramas. He has not made it to Quaggafontein but his presence is enjoyed by everyone who sees his fine work.
Here we have Dee and Savannah gracing our site.
Heidi and Craig of Burning Mail fame pop by to admire the work. Note the terrific Alice in Wonderland dress made by her mother.
My old bones need the bicycle to get around. The camps and the Playa are generously spread over a huge area. The bike is a gift from a kind friend but it lacks brakes. As I approach the OCC a young man confronts me. “Your bike needs attention I see” he says. “Come to my camp in two hours and let’s see what I can do”.
I arrive at his shade covered camp not knowing what to expect. I find a full setup for bike repair. Ronnie and Nina have in their camp two of the most adventurous young girls who have sussed out the entire Quaggafontein. Hannah and Joy know everything. And Ronnie is an ace at bike repair with all the kit. I get two full brake systems, a gear adjustment, a chain cleanup and lube. This man gives handsomely and wins the prize for the most generous gift on the Playa. From then on my travels become pure joy.
Diagonally opposite me is a camp with a famous motorbike. Michael tells me it has starred in the Mad Max movie with Charlize Theron. Forget about all the Hollywood pizazz. Sitting on it in the early morning sun is Mons and the photo doesn’t do it justice.
And to finish the photo shoot I capture Anna the creator of Ain’t Misbehaving. We have fun making our own Quaggafontein movie star.
My burn would not be complete without chatting to Nathan the Ultimate Scrawny Desert People. He has built the incredible The Other Thing and helped out all over the place. He and Isa are the hidden rock stars of the Tankwa.
My Burn brother Oliver is a structural engineer. He helped Carmel with Pipe Dreams in 2019 and has since been absorbed into the mammoth creation of Gaia’s Song. This is an epic art build four years in the making. And now it is appropriately the Temple for 2022. Where I encounter multiple moments of magic.
It is Sunday. The Temple is being prepared for the burn. Carmel’s son Michael and his buddies are tearing off the LED lighting and all plastic bits. Carmel is chatting to her many admirers and I join them. Husband Dave arrives with a handful of signs. Improvising he has made a tribute to Carmel to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary that day. She sheds a quiet tear at clearly having chosen the right man to marry.
The Temple burn is a silent one. Which sets the tone for this significant event. Unlike the Clan burn which was stormed by hundreds of selfish nudists this one performs perfectly. The Khoisan are fittingly on hand for the ceremony and the burn is awesome. My Ranger friend Pica Pau tells me the embers fell on his hat and set it alight as he did perimeter duty.
Before sunrise the next morning I head for the Gaia’s Song site. I seek a small memento and get more than I bargained for. As I approach the ashes in the semi darkness a lone figure appears. It is Carmel!! I give her a big hug and we watch the sunrise together. She tells me: “I came here not knowing what I was looking for. And I found myself!” We discuss the mighty battles to bring this massive project to fruition. She was spurred on by her detractors who said it was never going to be completed on time. They severely underestimated this pocket battleship fuelled by nuclear power. Creative, determined and above all, connected to the greater universe, she is too self effacing to acknowledge her dynamic contribution to a struggling world. I unilaterally add her name to the Pantheon of Burn Greats.
You meet all kinds of beautiful creatures on the playa. Here’s Cara who shared the secrets of her creative wings.
Thanks to Steve Hippietrap I listen regularly to the Burning Man radio station called Shouting Fire. Brian the new AB Communications Lead has pulled off a mighty coup. Bobzilla the Shouting Fire project manager and his wife Nicolette are in Quaggafontein!! They stream their program live to the outside world from Radio Free Tankwa. And I get to match the faces to their voices.
Bob tells me he loves AfrikaBurn for its stunning location and the friendly burners he gets to meet. Like Burning Man in the old days which he has attended 15 times. And he knew Larry Harvey. He tells me he will be back to Quaggafontein.
Every morning I get spoilt. The Purple Pancake camp provide fresh pancakes. To Rob and Lucy and Graham and Catherine and their team a big thank you. I would weigh a lot less if you had not been so kind.
Normally my stories focus on all the good things that I experience. But I’m making an exception this time. Every morning I ride past the famous Space Cowboys music theme camp. This year they have imported a giant blow up planet Mars complete with air pump and internal lighting. But I am sad. Every morning the site has been trashed. Vast collections of MOOP. The rangers tell me they think it’s due to a heavier than normal newbie intake. Youngsters who come to party and haven’t absorbed the underlying ethos of AfrikaBurn and its principles. And too many for oldies to guide the undisciplined newcomers.
I speak with Gavin and Mel from Space Cowboys who are standing in the disaster zone. You don’t have to guess what they are thinking. Mel makes an excellent observation. “This is the generation that marches about campaigning to eliminate pollution to save the planet. I wonder what their homes look like?”
As always there are too many artworks and theme camps to write about. You, dear reader, will see things through your own lens. I encourage you to tell the world about the sensory overload unlike anything else you can experience for the price of a ticket and a stay in the dusty desert.
The beautiful mountains appear to embrace the entire camp and playa as I leave. They look down and tell me that they will wait patiently for the next visit from the mightiest event on the African continent.