By Miss M.
We came well prepared. 3 of us.
Mr. B - a many time Burning Man voyager, USA and Africa – a kiwi living in London for the last 20 years, home on holiday, first Kiwiburn, with 20 years of European festivals under his belt. You probably saw him, a cheeky grin and a conversation for everyone. (A committed remover of MOOP who taught me that MOOP belongs to whomever sees it first)
Mr. C - a well-travelled and adventured kiwi living in NZ who had been to both Burning Man and AfrikaBurn, once each. A gentle bear who quietly helped each camp manage their sound emissions (when he was allowed).
And me. Miss M. Lifelong Londoner. Raver. Dancer. Well educated city-kid who grew up in a hippy home. I had been to Burning man once, with B. and moved here 2 years ago to live with C.
In 2007, Burning Man changed my view on the possibilities of the ways of the world. Which is quite something to do to a Londoner. I don’t drink alcohol and yet still it took me almost the whole week just to be able to go to bars (with my own cup) and ask for water. And the warmth and generosity of all and each that I encountered blew me away.
Growing up in that hippy home I was taught to share all I had with friends. But growing up in London your circle was precisely defined. Friends yes, strangers – don’t even make eye contact. An education like that is hard to shake.
At Burning Man everyone was friends. Friends you already knew, and friends you had yet to meet. I never knew the like. Every one talked and laughed and offered what they had. People stopped each other in the street/path/playa and said “You look hot, let me give you some water? Some sun screen? Come rest in our shade for a while…”. Or “You look hungry, do you want half of my pizza? Do you want to give this one to someone else?”. Gifting the gift of gifting. Ripples of love.
And the outfits, the costumes, the inventions and the gifts. BM is not a bartering system as its sometimes reputed to be. It’s just gifts. A rainbow of colours, creation, conversation, generosity and inspiration all around us. Art all over the playa. People all over the art. And everybody talking, sharing, dancing and laughing. Amazing. It changed my view of how the world could be. We all have enough. We could all share. And what a world that could be.
I took that knowledge back to London with me and it shaped the years to come. It opened paths and doors and created many new relationships; started when I would talk to strangers just like the Burners talked to me.
And then I moved to New Zealand. Bringing my London sass and stride. Ready to meet a new community. Ready to work and dance and live and laugh. Only to find that the world here was a different place. Even at parties or festivals. I don’t know why. But people are shy. Or perhaps they think I’m mad for talking to them when I don’t know them. Hard to say. They don’t invite strangers in to a conversation. Or their hearts or homes or lives as we did back home. As we did to the many travellers we found along the way. And a part of me felt sad and wished for home.
Then I found out about Kiwiburn and thought, “Well here we go. This should be different”.
(I guess?) So I got tickets, signed up for a shift, volunteered my services to find a way to contribute, collected my boys and off we went. And it was different. In every way.
The Artery was my first port of call. I volunteered for a shift and had a ball. (Erin you are amazing).
Thursday morning we made food to share for the communal breakfast, and almost gave it all away just walking down the hill, people delighted but surprised it seemed. When we arrived we saw that lots of people eating, but not so many brought things to share, at least not that we could see. The lovely lady in the kitchen came out and gave me a hug for bringing my plate. I was touched, but also surprised that it seemed to surprise her.
And I guess that’s what I saw and learned at this, my first year. Some people really got it. The kids who made grilled sandwiches under a tree one day and gave them out to passers-by. The arse-gallery circle in the woods. The Mint Country Club. The Artery. The clothes swapping line. The pizza posse in the upper field. Those who shared drinks with strangers. Those who put on parties in their camps. Those who electrified nipples and those who slapped bottoms. Those who set up swinging bar doors and those who provided a dancing pole. Those who dressed and Art-ed and laughed and danced and shared. Those that built the community and those that dismantled it. You all rocked the festival. I salute each and every one of you.
And to those who were shy and just starting out, who kept themselves to themselves a little more, getting an idea of how things might be – I’d just like to say: look around, pick what you liked best and bring it back next year, in your own way.
Mr C wondered if we might organise ourselves a little better next year. Given the ratio of infra-structure to participants (lots: not so many), perhaps we could time table the parties not to clash so that there are enough party-goers to create a crowd at each one – Mad Max(ine) where did you go?
Mr B commented that when he first went to AfrikaBurn it was 23.8% dressed up and now its 90%. (Look at the pictures on the Kiwiburn page and get inspired). These things take time. Community takes time to grow. Especially from small seeds. Community comes from sharing and welcoming. It’s a little different from standard Auckland (where I live - you know, the white wine and high-heels posse). But its 100% Burner. Let’s dial it up.
It was great. And we can do better still. We need to spread the ethos of participation, inclusion and community on the Paddock still wider. Burns are what you make them. Burns are what you bring. Burns are what you share. Burns are what you wear. Dress up. Talk to strangers. Pass what you have in your pocket to whomever is standing next to you. Treat the paddock like one big family. And so it will be. It’s not just up to the camps. It’s up to each one of us.
We came well prepared. 3 of us. Water, sunscreen, food and shade to eat and share. Outfits outfits and more outfits. And we laughed and danced and talked and shared. And we were welcomed. And I found the people I have missed these last 2 years. The global tribe. Thank you Kiwiburn. Mr B, Mr C and I cannot wait to see you all there next year.
Go check out KiwiBurn.