What makes an experience special? Is it measured in joy, personal connections, outlandish activities? Is it measured in accomplishment? Yes to all of the above, but it is more qualitative than quantitative. It is a combination of what is left behind, and from that, how one moves forward. It’s an experience that is deeply etched, ensuring that not only are the memories unforgettable, but that one’s thoughts and emotions (existential or otherwise) are recorded with some permanency. From these experiences we feel the gratitude for the occasion and grow from the notions that were felt. We are changed by it, and for the better.
I think for most, AfrikaBurn is an unequivocally special experience. How could it not be? A week of creative expression, exploration, of pantomime and theatricals, music, decorations, giant wooden characters being spectacularly set alight. All of which takes place in the middle of the desert.
Tankwa Town feels like a colossal, grimy arcade in which adults (and children) run, cycle, play and gawk at the extravaganza. The parades and spectacles from morning to night are almost too much to take in. It is overwhelming and humbling. The ineffable experience of sunset and twilight; that transition period where the sun goes down, spilling its impossibly vivid colours up and outward and onto the monuments of wonderland. Relinquishing its grasp on the sky, our star gives up (or gifts) its energy to the people who carry it through the night and into the early hours of the morning. I think you will understand, fellow ‘burners’, when I say every night at AfrikaBurn feels like your first and your last.
However, there is a certain sacrifice one must make in order to reap fully the rewards. A surrender of some part of character, however small, is necessary. There is so little of functional society out there that to attain value, first one must surrender the preconceived idea of value. This means letting go, yielding to that inexorable tug, a pull made final in death but glimpsed briefly in life; one of the indescribable concepts of the ‘soul’. Is it worth even trying? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself.
To end off:
Squeeze between suitcases and spotlights
into a corporeal space, a non-physical place;
identity becomes everything and nothing.
Dichotomy of an outstretched hand
One toward the unknown and uncomfortable.
The other fumbling, fingering,
white–knuckled and wretched,
desperate for a hold on familiarity.
The constant struggle:
Value attained versus value attainable.
Something must be left behind to go forward.
The heart and mind are finite,
We live to breath,
speak too often and listen too little.
We run and cry and smoke
and laugh and hurt.
We resist and yield,
fight off, then embrace the dust.
We drink the kiss.
Image curtesy of Marc Berman