There are certain experiences in your life which are so intense they are almost changing something inside you.
AfrikaBurn was probably one of these.
But let me explain first in few words what AfrikaBurn was. It was a week long festival of creativity, arts, musics, performances in South Africa, in the middle of the desert (or better, the national park of Tankwa Karoo). As a regional Burning Man event, the name derives from the fact that during the whole week several sculptures and artifacts are burned to the ground.
This event is gathering more than 9000 people every year, who live all together in a almost surreal environment.
Sand, winds and no water at all, 35 degrees during the day, 5 during the night. 150km far from the nearest town, 113km of a tyre-munching road and rocky desert all around. And most important, one of the few spot in today’s world without any network coverage.
The last one is a kind of privilege so rare in the life of burners. Hence usually it all begins like this: when you discover you cannot post any pics on instagram, after a while of “acclimatization” (or disorientation if you prefer) in this new environment, you start to explore, to move around meeting other people in your same status.
Status that I can describe as “disconnected” from the world, perhaps even from the reality.
The people you find at AfrikaBurn are going to hit you more than the sun. Dressed up in the strangest outfits, moving around dancing, cr
eating, reflecting their intrinsec personalities.
The very first moments your brain will probably crash down cause of the
many different, out-of-normal-reality inputs. It will only be able to assimilate, trying to elaborate one of the strangest scenario you will ever see. Luckily, the presence of naturally beautiful sunsets will help your “stream of consciousness” and your “elaboration”.
You can just stop, sit down wherever you are and think, or watch, or sing. It doesn’t really matter, you are totally free to do whatever you want. I’m quite a thinking guy and not really a singer, hence I decided to think.
I’ve decided to think about everything, think about life, work, way of living. However, those are general elaboration; in fact I’ve discovered that the more you remain in “the thinker” mood, the more specific your ideas become.
Indeed, one of the most interesting thoughts I’ve had during those perfect times, was about the people who were there.
People willing to express their “state of mind” or their hidden culture, enjoying at the maximum the AfrikaBurn experience, dancing or performing 24/7 and making beautiful (real or unreal) trips with or without friends.
As a sort of evasion from everyday reality, most of people there decided to use drugs/alcool to “enjoy properly” the situation. Asking them why, the most common answer was “in order to be happier, and enjoy this as deep as I can”.
Therefore I started to think again, deeper, widening the perspective and taking into consideration the society as a whole. A rich, principally white society, international and south african at the same time. Suddenly a number of questions came to my mind:
“which kind of society needs something more than what you already have to enjoy properly a situation like this? Is it just a “supreme” realization of your interior expression or is the reflection of a decadent society? Why do you need anything as elaborated as drugs in order to enjoy those beautiful experiences? Is it not enough for you?”
Everybody was telling me that the most beautiful pleasure are the simplest, but I’ve seen a lot of complicated pleasures there.
Across all my travels, instead I have seen the wide smile of a sherpa child in Nepal enjoying the fact that his father brought home a little ball made of rags. I have seen a poor woman in India smiling and hugging her husband because he gave her an old pair of shoes for her birthday. I have seen a man in South Africa crying for joy when his son came back home after a long period seeking for luck abroad.
Those are the simplest pleasure. And this made me think that the way most of the people took to enjoy AfrikaBurn wasn’t really the simplest way, neither probably the best one. AfrikaBurn wasn’t for everyone.
The astonishing burning shows instead were for everyone. Those burnings represent the culmination of a true AfrikaBurn experience. Pieces of art taller than 30 mt burned to the ground. Thousands of people around the delimiting circles, bewitched by flames almost reaching the clear starry sky. For the giant rabbit in the pics, it took no more than than 30 mins and then everything was on the ground, little fires extinguishing, giving the silent blastoff for the last night.
Start that people were waiting for and they welcomed it with open arms. Dancing for one last night, waiting for the sunrise or hoping it will never come again, with a full-of-thoughts head or in a “hakuna matata” mood.
That was AfrikaBurn, a double-faced experience, where arts and musics, people and souls, pleasures and decadency were meeting each other, till a new, last, dawn.