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Curiouser and Curiouser

by Katie de Klee / Images by Jonx Pillemer / 25.03.2013

It rained as we arrived. And it was dark. All good intentions of arriving early enough to set up and relax in the daylight had disappeared with a deleted file in the office and by the time we were having our tickets swapped for green wristbands at the gate it was dark (and raining). I had my first whiskey before the car engine had even cooled.

I found a spot for the tent at the ankles of a tepee and crept inside to join some friends who’d arrived earlier and we soon filled their canvas roof with smoke and plundered their supplies.

And then, when we had lifted ourselves high enough above the ground to have moved our minds far out of the offices and homes we’d left behind, we moved down to the Little Market Square, where Kimon, in his panda ears, was mixing some groovy tunes.

When I woke up, the morning had pressed its tongue against the side of my tent and beads of dew were dampening my back. My mouth was dry and bladder full and I shimmied out of my sleeping bag and ran through the mist to a portaloo and the water tap. The campsite was wrapped in early morning fog, and I crawled back into the tent to get away from it.

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When Dorothy went spinning out of Kansas she landed for the first time on screen in a colourful land. From the rain and the dark and the black-and-white-night, that morning I knew too that Toto, we weren’t in Cape Town anymore.

We started the morning at the dam, and then skipped over when we were ready to dance to the sounds we’d heard rolling over the water to us, and as we arrived under the candy striped canopy Fletcher was busy trying to sink the dance floor with his heavy, heavy funk.

This was a gathering of magical creatures and strange beasts; wings and glitter and stilts and painted faces, and all the time bubbles with oil-slick rainbows floated off into the breeze.
I had to shade my eyes to see her properly, it was the middle of the day and the sun was high, her long tail was swaying from side to side as she moved her hips to keep the hoop from falling. And on her shoulders stood a little girl, and her hands were on her ankles. And she too swayed back and forth.

The bands on the stage are not really mainstream bands. Flamjangled doesn’t book the bands that might appear as headliners at Rocking the Daisies. But you might still have heard of a few, or seen some of them around town. The more we danced, the more the ground was decorated with fallen sequins and feathers. I saw two sets of nipple tassled breasts, and I wasn’t surprised. We had all been acting like tits.

Sunday was the warmest day, the sun tried to dry us out and send us back to the serious world as sober people. But the heat made us thirsty and we sipped on ciders and punch, sleepy as dormice drunk on the mad hatter’s tea, until the music picked us up and the fish printed on my shorts swam in circles round my hips as I twisted them. The ground by now had become dusty and the green grass was turning to hay.

At the end of everything I was sad to have to leave. My tent, which had popped so willingly out of my bag, resisted being twisted back into its packet. I have forgotten what it was that I decided I needed to escape. My life in Cape Town is hardly one that needs much diversion. But I found it hard for the first few days that I was back to lift my brain off my pillow in the mornings, for it chose to stay somewhere in a dreamland.

Flamjangle Headbang

In a city as geographically, socially and psychically segregated as Cape Town, I tend to crave communal spaces. I spend hours in coffee shops simply because I love to be surrounded by people, and I do not feel the pavements and city squares offer that chance, especially when the sun begins to dip. You always have to have one eye over your shoulder and one hand on your bag.

Festivals like Flamjangled create a space, just outside of the city where, for a few hours, you can be part the total release of a non-hierarchical social system. I can leave behind all the things that people usually use to define me: my job, where I’m from, what I wear, how much money I have in my pocket. It’s a permissive space where we get to exercise parts of ourselves that are perhaps a lot closer to our true nature. With or without the shrooms.

Flamjangled shares many of the ethics of Afrikaburn – of radical inclusion, of impulse and play. But where the Burn is in the desert, the tea party is in a garden. It sets no pace to match, but it encourages imaginative participation. On one level it’s a transient social experiment in liberation and on the other it’s just a group of eclectic people having fun in a canvas village, with some good tunes for the weekend.


My brain is still a bit scramble-jangled, my days were slower and my felt harder for a time. But my dreams were more vivid. But I did write this poem:

The time has,
The Caterpillar said,
To try and grow some wings,
To sip out of a tea cup,
And dance while a gypsy sings.

To sit upon a flower petal
And turn your nose to the sun
To swim because you’re hot,
To laugh because it’s fun.

So follow the twinkling lights
Till you hear a funky beat,
Walk through a door to nowhere,
And make friends with all you meet.

Don’t hesitate my child, and do not fear,
You’re totally normal
Because we’re all mad here.

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*All images © Jonx Pillemer / Flamjangled Tea Party.

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