How Burning Man changed my life

Consultant, connector and social commentator Rozan Ahmed believes her experience in Black Rock desert released her potential to become a cultural visionary
How Burning Man changed my life

"Three years ago, I was running a very successful consulting company when I had what you could call a physical breakdown. I was giving a talk at Saudi Design Week, and when I came off stage, I had a blackout, and woke up in hospital suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and all sorts of problems brought about by neglecting my physical self.

After that, I realised I needed to reevaluate my life as a businesswoman and beyond, and put myself and my priorities first. Although I was worried about giving up my luxuries to live in the desert for a whole week, I’d always wanted to go to Burning Man festival to lose myself in order to find myself – I wanted to explore these clichés and find out what truth there was to them.

Rozan Ahmed shares her transformative experience with Grazia

For the uninitiated, Burning Man – an annual gathering in Black Rock Desert in Nevada – is founded on 10 principles including acts of gift giving, decommodification, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self-expression and self-reliance, and an environmental commitment to leaving no trace. It’s complete and utter creative freedom and exploration. I went and I did exactly that. I didn’t go with a ‘squad’ or hang out with friends. At Burning Man, if you meet anybody in your process, they become a part of your process. They don’t even need to know your name, they just want to know what you have to offer spiritually. Anything can happen, just like that – a moment of real, soulful connection where you cry together about a similar experience. That happened to me. It left me feeling so much stronger and fear-free. That was the biggest change for me. I had no more fear of living the life I truly wanted to experience.

Later, that’s what inspired me to get on a plane and go to Honduras. I watched a documentary ten years ago called The Last Days of Left Eye in which the late Lisa Left Eye Lopez from the band TLC visited the holistic, plant-based healer Dr. Sebi in Honduras. It took me ten years to find the courage to go to assess my diet and way of living, but after Burning Man, I just got on a plane and went. He believed that food wasn’t just a physical healer but also a mental healer. I spent four months with him and he changed my life.

My Burning Man experience flipped everything – my priorities, what matters, and the idea of putting myself and my vision first. It taught me about tapping into my creativity, understanding how close my physical and mental state are to one another, and how that relates to what I put into my mouth. Dr. Sebi and Burning Man have made me what I am today – someone now who strictly follows my own creative passions, my vision, and my belief in how to better myself and my immediate environment, as well as the world.

My dream for the past two years has been to create a non-profit organisation, and I’m setting up The Magic Drive in Kenya to ignite the creative potential of less fortunate children. I’m making a film – which I’m dedicating to Dr. Sebi, who passed away in 2016 – focused on ancient fashion and how ancient habits affect what we want to wear in this moment. Finally, I’m dedicated to exploring and furthering the African relationship with the world, and a lot of my work centres on building relationships between Africa and Arabia through cultural dialogue and fashion. I’ve always wanted to put that into one powerful platform but I could never think of a name. Last year, it finally came to me: Africanism.

All my dream projects are up and running. It’s so exciting. I’m in a really good – overwhelming, but good – place. I’ve moved into my vision. I believe I use all my tools, which are based in art and culture, to fulfil my vision, which is shifting paradigms, consensus and ideas towards the celebration of difference. This can only lead to unity and collective understanding.

My advice to Grazia readers who have been comtemplating Burning Man? Go with intention. Don’t go thinking, ‘How many photos will I take? Who will I hang out with? What will I wear?’ Express yourself with fashion, express yourself spiritually. Go to get lost. Go with no-one and nothing else. Your support network will come to you there if you need it. Go with yourself." 

• For more information on Rozan’s work, follow her on Instagram at @iamrozan and at @themagicdrive

Photos: Getty Images and supplied