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Around this time last year, I was excitedly anticipating my first experience of Swaziland’s MTN Bushfire Festival, dubbed one of the ‘seven African music festivals you really have to see‘ by CNN. I had fallen in love with the nation some months before that while on assignment. Everyone told me I just had to return for the festival, so I did for both work and pleasure. I adventured with my twin sister Nandi, her colleague Dumi, and our pal Silas. Here is what we saw and experienced – one of the best weekends of my life, really.

 

Dumi, Nandi and Silas en route Swaziland, just before the Oshoek Border.

Dumi, Nandi and Silas en route Swaziland, just before the Oshoek Border.

 

LEFT A kiss for Silas, because road trips make me happy; RIGHT Nandi and I enjoyed this walk to and from our campsite each morning.

LEFT A kiss for Silas, because road trips make me happy; RIGHT Nandi and I enjoyed this walk to and from our campsite each morning.

 

The things festivals are made of. Photo by the twin, Nandi Qubeka

The things festivals are made of. Photo by Nandi Qubeka.

 

The fire here was fully aflame and these gentlemen wanted me to know it.

The fire here was fully aflame and these gentlemen wanted me to know it.

 

A taste of what its like. Dancing, sharing, singing...

A taste of what it’s like. Dancing, sharing, singing.

 

Silas, two beers, and some peeps behind him. Photo by Vuyi Qubeka

Silas, two beers, and some peeps behind him.

 

LEFT: Silas had a light moment with a creature on stilts; RIGHT This was us chilling at Silas's doorstep. The dude to the right wondered to our tent and we chilled and exchanged.

LEFT: Silas had a light moment with a creature on stilts; RIGHT This was us chilling at Silas’s doorstep. The dude to the right wondered to our tent and we chilled and exchanged.

 

Beer caps and Arm bands.

Beer caps and Arm bands.

 

Friendsies on the lawn.

Friendsies on the lawn.

 

Love was very generously shared, as is the case at most festivals. This is a moment between a friend and I that evokes what was felt that weekend.

Love was very generously shared, as is the case at most festivals. This is a moment between a friend and I that evokes what was felt that weekend.

 

Tonik and Friends are a must-listen. An eclectic-future sound of music created by blending various instruments.

Tonik and Friends are a must-listen. An eclectic-future sound of music created by blending various instruments.

 

LEFT Tonik and friends host silent gigs by creating music in real-time using synthesizers

LEFT Tonik and friends host silent gigs by creating music in real-time using synthesizers, instruments and other sounds. All you do is listen over earphones; RIGHT Bongeziwe Mabandla is amazing, on all musical levels. His eclectic blend of urban, apologetically African folk music is magic. He got deep into his performance, jumped off stage, and sang on the grass surrounded by roaring fans.

 

Safe sex education is proclaimed widely at the festival and brightly coloured condoms with interesting patterns on them are distributed all weekend.

Safe sex education is proclaimed widely at the festival and brightly coloured condoms with interesting patterns on them are distributed all weekend.

 

This is but a hint of the energy that is the MTN Bushfire Festival. It feels like an intentional collection of love, good vaabs, and the most freeing blend of art, music and conversation.

This is but a hint of the energy that is the MTN Bushfire Festival. It feels like an intentional collection of love, good vaabs, and the most freeing blend of art, music and conversation.

 

The trio of The Soil: Luphindo Ngxanga, Buhlebendalo Mda (Soil Sister), Ntsika Fana-tastic Ngxanga.

The trio of The Soil: Luphindo Ngxanga, Buhlebendalo Mda (Soil Sister), Ntsika ‘Fana-tastic’ Ngxanga.

 

LEFT Buhle sings in the sunlight; RIGHT This little one was enthralled by The Soil as they closed off the weekends activities.

LEFT Buhle sings in the sunlight; RIGHT This little one was enthralled by The Soil as they closed off the weekends activities.

 

Ntsika of The Soil in the spirit of the music.

Ntsika of The Soil in the spirit of the music.

 

The fire was truly seen, and felt.

The fire was truly seen, and felt.

 

Founder and Director Jiggs stands with his team behind him addressing the crowds with a teary speech as he closed the 2015 festivities.

Founder and Director Jiggs stands with his team behind him addressing the crowds with a teary speech as he closed the 2015 festivities.

 

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Mo fire to Bushfire. And of course, I’ll be going back…