21.7.14

The Extra-worldly Nation of Gondwana

Wands: the ultimate NoG dancefloor accessory
A woman in a body-hugging indigo stocking and skirt outfit twists a hoola hoop around her torso, shoulders, upper thighs.  A shock of yellow yarn  sways under her indigo headscarf, like doll's hair. She seemed to be in a trance.  Even if it's not your kind of music, one glance at her and you'll start to feel the beat...

I had a pretty bad time at Nation of Gondwana the first time I went there in 2011.  This is mainly because it was freezing cold (7 degrees Celsius in July... hard to imagine that now).  There also weren't many people there and the people who were, were understandably grim.  However, I've finally seen NoG the way that it is supposed to be: a sunny, rambling, warm pressure cooker for Berlin's precociously artistic clubbing community, and I am a convert.  I might even apply for a passport, or at least a temporary, annual residency at Gondwana. 

While the music in NoG doesn't cater for a huge range of tastes (minimal, more minimal, some low-fi electronic experimentation and a bit of banging techno) that is okay.  Music isn't really the highlight of the event.  Or at least, not for me it wasn't.  As I saw on Saturday and Sunday, the festival acts as a magnet for some of the most colourful, chilled-out and talented dancefloor performers from Berlin's nightlife scene.

The nighttime glade of trippy light installments surrounding the lake was a major draw, too.  especially the 'acid' hedge at the far end, which made you feel like you were falling and flying at the same time... yes, even whilst sober.  Impossible to take photos of that, though!

NoG dancefloor accessory no. 2: a trippy brolly
Every other person at NoG was an exotic mishmash of swimming gear, body paints, and bright, smeared makeup.  Remnants of their signature looks clung on desperately to the most private body parts - a last-ditch attempt at modesty as the temperature in the sun-scorched site pushed toward 40 degrees.

By Sunday afternoon most people had shed the non-essential parts of their creative festy garb.
But they were still carrying tailor made brollies covered in flowers, pendants, paint and lights and they were still stomping and smiling at strangers.  Especially smiling at strangers. Very nice!  I couldn't help wondering if there was something in that water spout that the festival crew kept turning on at regular intervals, because there was a certain special light in everybody's eyes.

Dancing in the water
Around the time that Extrawelt played on Sunday, everybody seemed to decide that it was time to break out the hoola hoops, en masse.  People were snaking their hips everywhere I looked, including a girl who looked like she'd stepped out of a fifties poster, in pigtails, a high rise skirt, holding a lollipop.  She seemed to be a hooper-in-training and couldn't keep it up for more than ten seconds (a dysfunction that I share).  Eventually a mashed-up guy in cutoff jeans and purple hair stopped by and asked her if he could have a go.  It looked like he was a first-timer too, but he managed to keep the hoop going, swinging his hips in huge ungainly circles for a good few minutes while his mates cheered him on. 

The next biggest attraction on the dancefloor was a water spout that was opened up at semi-regular intervals during the day, a rainbow spray of droplets billowing over screaming punters with outstretched hands at the ecstatic shock of the cold. There was also a van trawling the main paths with little sprinklers splattering away on the back as festival goers jogged along behind it, with various expressions of yearning etched on their faces.

NoG-ers went to extreme lengths to avoid the sun
In the end the heat actually did me in too, though, and unfortunately I had to leave early Sunday evening.  (I was pretty chuffed to realize that it was actually cooler in the city center than it was in the countryside, in apparent violation of all physical laws).  

On my way back to Nauen though, I discovered that at least one thing about NoG hasn't changed very much since 2011: the shuttle service back to the train station is still horrible.  But you take the good with the bad and at Gondwana 2014 there was plenty of good to make up for a couple of sardine-can rides to and from Nauen.




(It would still be nice to have more shuttles next time though, guys...)


Rainbows by the water spout




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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.