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Around a campfire on a dark and starry night …

A poster for Constellations at Spier caught my eye yesterday, but alas the tickets were already sold out. Reading Alex Dodd’s review took me there for a moment. Surely there will be another series … please?

Alex writes:
Last night we had the thrill of attending Constellations, a series of magical campfire encounters that take place at small hidden clearings tucked into the forest along the riverbed on Spier Wine Estate.

As someone who adores the fundamental ritual of gathering around an open fire at night time, I was really looking forward to the experience of communing with strangers under a dark sky full of stars.

You don’t get to choose which artists/storytellers/memory weavers you’ll encounter along your route through the forest, but I couldn’t have wished for a better combination of fire starters.

Our trip began with a fantastic storytelling session with Jemma Kahn.

We at Call Off the Search fell in love with Jemma Kahn when we saw the absolutely unforgettable We didn’t come to hell for the croissants

I’ve been lapping up her wickedly zany plays for years, but being one of seven listeners gathered around as the flames leaped and licked, and her stories grew more absurd and mysterious was a rare thrill.

Then, around our next fire, things got extraordinarily deep extraordinarily quickly as Nadia Khan Kimmie guided us in a moment of ritual dialogue with each of our ancestors. The experience was astonishingly powerful.

I didn’t expect to share such a raw blaze of feeling with a group of complete strangers and I’m pretty sure they didn’t either, but that is what happened. Tears were shed beneath those stars!

Cleansed, we moved onwards into the night to encounter another artist who has long held my deepest respect, but here now, one to one – just us and him and his assembly of miraculous Southern African musical instruments. Sitting on a rock around the flame was none other than Dizu Plaatjies!

By day, he says, he is as quiet and serious as a priest, but in the golden firelight, he transformed into his multiple storytelling self, weaving the most resonant tales about Pondoland and Mozambique and the healing powers of each instrument he played for us, and the journeys that he has been on across the planet to find and share the sounds he shared last night with our small group of pilgrims.

I wish I could have rolled out my sleeping bag and fallen asleep to the nocturnal choir of crickets, but we had to get home before curfew set in at midnight.

We wound our way back along the highway between Khayelitsha and the inky sea reminded of some of the best qualities and capacities in being human – the capacity to wizard something out of nothing, to mystify, to be vulnerable…

The truly transformative experiences in life call on you to cut loose from your preconceptions and surrender to what the conjuring might lay before you. And the surprises of the night were manifold!

Deep respect to Brett Bailey, who conceptualised Constellations, and to all the artists involved in this extraordinary Third World Bunfight production. While keeping things safe in the time of Covid, they’ve pulled off nothing short of a miracle!

I’m not sure if there are still tickets available for this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights’ performances, but grab hold of them if you can.[PS. I turned off my phone for the entire experience, so I stole this picture from the Constellations Facebook page.]

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