MTN Bushfire 2023, day three

the global entity dancing bushfire

Bushfire festival, day three

On Sunday morning I wake up FRESH and with an intense urge to dance! I get ready and catch a kombi (public transport in Eswatini) right outside the Gables, the huge mall close by. There’s supposed to be specific shuttles going back and forth to the festival area but I have no clue where or when they go. After a lot of looks from the local kombi users at my glittering face, and many stops and pauses, we arrive! We are ready for Bushfire day three. In honor of it being the last day of the festival, the sun is paying us an unexpected but warmly welcomed visit. Everyone is dressed in their best festival outfits and the energy is running high. It’s not even eleven!? As I get to the Main Stage, Uncle Karly is blasting Beyonce’s Love on Top, full volume. I haven’t heard it in years and yet I know every word. It was the song that came to me as a divine affirmation when I took my first steps of self acceptance. That was seven years ago, the rain was drizzling down over a gray and cold me, in a gray and cold Stockholm. I was dancing on the roof, singing and feeling every word of the love song as my gray and cold call center colleagues stared at me. In ancient Chinese medicine they say we live in cycles of seven years. Today, the song hits differently. I realize I relate to the song differently now because I am different. Its words aren’t the lifeboat it once was, now it’s part of my common decency. Towards myself. It feels symbolic to receive this song today. As I dance and sing, I am yet again reminded of the cathartic power of music.

Bushfire 2023, day three
Bought a beautiful neckless by @stylishculturalcrafts. Link in the picture.
the global entity dancing bushfire

Dancing, the medicine of my soul

In the afternoon I run into some friends from Eswatini who invite me over to have a drink at their campsite. After not just one, but two, distraction maneuvers that should only be compared by the skills of Agent 007, I am successfully smuggled into the campsite. It offers a welcome respite for my feet to sit down in the camp after days of intense dancing. The parties are already going strong at the campsite. Apparently, there are people that come every year only to camp. They never enter the festival area! As the sun sets we start heading back towards the festival area but the view is so magnificent we have to pause. I walk away from my friends, I need a moment. I put my camera down and I start to dance. I move in a way I haven’t moved in years. The joy comes so suddenly that I miss a beat. I am dancing again! The rhythm is within me, the moment entirely my own. And my body is in movement! It’s not like I haven’t danced previously. I have. But not like this. Ever since I stopped dancing contemporary dance, over ten years ago, it has felt like dancing and the very essence of movement has left my body. It sounds dramatic, I know, but that is the best way I can describe it. The pandemic didn’t make things easier, rather it left me with an inflammation and heaviness that further limited my ability and joy for movement. It brings tears of joy to my eyes to now feel the movement so forcefully present in my body again. When I return to my friends, I am ecstatic! “Who did you kiss?” a friend asks teasingly and giggles. We get back to the festival area just as darkness arrives, the tones of Ibeyi‘s magical songs luring me back onto the dance floor.

Navigating public spaces, night time and men

Eventually, the last DJ plays its last tones. It feels way too soon but I am dying of thirst and the only place that there is water is at the campsite. I say goodbye to Bolodoamor who has to go back to work and grab onto a 19 year old Brazilian who happened to stand next to me. He looks terrified when I ask him to smuggle me into the campsite but is way too polite to question it. He needn’t have worried, everything went smoothly. I go straight to the camps ‘common area’ with the many fires. I’m still sweaty but Eswatini nights are cold and I am bound to need the heat while I wait for my friends. We were supposed to reunite after the last concert but with my phone off and most of my friends running on African time, I realize it probably won’t happen. I’m torn between what I should do. Go home and sleep or stay an dance? I know there are plenty of cars outside the festival area right now, but will there be any available later? Probably not. On the other hand, public transport starts at dawn and I want to dance till then anyways. I feel like my safety conundrum from yesterday makes itself known again. That as a solo traveling female, I navigate and create security, in relation to and at the mercy of men. Au contrary to yesterday, tonight, I’m completely alone. Is it safe for me to stay? I hear my mothers stern warnings about festivals, traveling and being a woman. But then I also hear her encouraging words about standing your ground and taking up space. The words from my last thesis ring in my ears: the fear women have of men, inhibits them from moving freely in public spaces; less women in public spaces, make public spaces less safe for women. The safety conundrum of being female. Goddammit. I’m going to dance!

 

 

theglobalentity at Bushfire 2023
The Global Entity at Bushfire 2023, day three camping

It’s around two AM and the campsite is packed! Happy people are everywhere, dancing, singing and talking. I make friends with a group that invites me to an after party. The guy who invited me wants to buy me a drink but all of the places have closed. I remember I’m actually still carrying a little bottle of alcohol from the night before and offer to share it. When we arrive we are welcomed like royalty. Mozambicans can host like nobody’s business! The music is loud and amazing. In a moment of weakness I succumb to the expectations of my surroundings and feel stuck to the guy that I came with. It is very evident that everyone expects me to be “somebody’s”. Tiresome gendered expectations… but I won’t let that chain me! The guy doesn’t seem to want to speak to me anyways so after trying to pull a whole conversation for five minutes I decide to mingle. Everyone is super friendly and in a party mood. I only have time to speak to two people before the host calls me back to the guy I came with. When I get there I realize that he is trying to wingman the guy. Wingman him to me. Sigh. When the host leaves, the guy starts speaking to another man. And then another. Am I just expected to stand here? Am I rude if I walk away? How angry will he get when I reject him? But he has made no move on me, so how can I even reject him? The situation is absurd. I’m not afraid of the guy, nor do I feel unsafe in my setting, but my thought process shows how extremely aware my whole being is of the risks that come with rejecting a guy. I pretend to see somebody I know at the party and excuse myself.

I fall right into the arms of a Mozambican poet who starts reciting love poems in my ear. As more of the creatives of Mozambique join us we start singing. I’m improvising and harmonizing freely, text, melody and all. It is far from perfect but I can feel something has shifted within during this festival. It’s like I can access my creativity again! Gosh I love Mozambicans! The guy who brought me to the party approaches us and interrupts us mid song. “Do you have more alcohol?” I look at him dumbfounded. Is he serious? After ignoring me all night and yet somehow making it clear that he is bothered when I’m socializing with others, now he wants alcohol? The premise of the whole situation is stupid. I feel indignant by his request and blankly refuse. I continue with my night and my new found creative powers. When it’s an hour before dawn the guy asks if we can talk. He wants to know what happened. Between us. Why did it get weird? The question shocks me. Not in any of my years on this earth has a man, out of his own free will, taken the emotional responsibility to initiate a conversation about what went wrong. Mind you, this is the guy I met three hours ago. My first instinct is to minimize my experience and brush it under the rug. It is a coping mechanism for safety I think, always looking at how to de-escalate topics that can hurt a man’s ego. I don’t know what made me do it, but I answer him frankly. I don’t downplay nothing. I describe his behavior and how I perceived it as straight forward as I can. My words leave him in silence. I let him process what I’ve said, getting ready for his defense. Instead he surprises me and says “Jeesh, yeah. I can see that. I can see that now.” From there, we dive deep into topics of gender norms, expectations, communication and toxic masculinity specifically. He does all the heavy lifting in the conversation and I am surprised by this man’s actual effort and what I can only perceive as desire, at four AM, post crazy festival, to understand himself and what happened. At the end of the talk he apologizes again for his behavior, thanks me heartily for the conversation and bids me goodnight.

MTN Bushfire 2023, night
Female empowerment at Bushfire

Imagine that! The conversation lingers with me as I start making my way through the tents towards the empty festival area. As I reach the site with all the fires, dawn surrounds me. It is my favorite time of day and yet I haven’t been awake to greet her in so long. I see three men sitting on a bench, each huddled under a thin blanket. How much warmer wouldn’t they be if they just scooched together, sat on one blanket and used the other two on top of them? The conversation with the guy earlier left me the impression that he was starved for such meaningful and emotionally present conversations. Thinking about my own life, I have an abundance of them. It is at the core of my very existence. Just like the women in my life that constantly show up for me and those beautiful yet hard conversations. It must be lonely to be born a man. To not be granted the richness of platonic intimacy and the language of emotions. How funny it is to live the human experience. Just a few hours ago I was painfully aware of my genders vulnerabilities. Now, I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anything else. Think what you will about The Guy, to me he will be remembered as the guy who took the emotional responsibility and held space for a hard conversation. This should probably be basic, bottom line. But he surprised me. Somewhere, some camp is playing Sjava’s Umcebo. The sky is a fierce color of pink and orange, the air wet and cold. In a few hours my friends are picking me up to go back home. What an experience Bushfire has been! What an experience it is to be alive!

If you want the Bushfire experience in movie format,

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2 thoughts on “MTN Bushfire 2023, day three”

  1. Pingback: MTN Bushfire 2023, day two - The global entity

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