Chale Wote Street Art festival: Euphoria high among revellers

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Chale Wote Street Art Festival
Chale Wote Street Art Festival
Spining

The Chale Wote Street Art Festival, a highly anticipated festival that brings art, music, dance and performance onto the streets of Jamestown, Accra’s old quarter, is sparking a wave of euphoria among revellers.

Some merrymakers, local and international tourists alike, have begun to throng Jamestown, reintroducing the distinct aliveness that had become accustomed to the community but was seemingly lost due to the Covid-19 invasion.

On entry to Jamestown, a predominantly fishing community, the common scent of fish and shrimp that one meets when entering the community like a perfectly choreographed ballet is absent but instead, the blaring street music from make-shift pub operators is heard.

That, Christain Mensah, operator of “Level 3” pub, says, brings life to the otherwise drudgery experience of Accra.

“This year’s Chale Wote festival seems promising, it’s been two years since Chale Wote was celebrated,” he expresses optimism as he quickly joins his workers to set up for the big weekend.

Some holiday makers and tourists were taking strolls as exhibitors set up for the weekend, as were the children and other community folks traipsing in an excited manner.

Already, ahead of the weekend revelry, some businesses, vendors and exhibitors are pitching tents and other collapsible shelters along the Ussher Fort stretch all the way down to the Jamestown Lighthouse, which may beam its lantern across the dark night and the waves of the sea.

For Tafari Billa, a local accessories exhibitor, he looks forward to an exciting festival that will translate to higher sales this weekend.

Mr. Elvis Amoah, a barbecue operator, youth participation to be high, but warns that COVID-19 is still lurking, and patrons must take precaution as they “chill” in moderation.

Meanwhile, a gridlock has begun to peak around the already busy Accra High Street, which leads to Jamestown.

In its 11th year, Jamestown, Accra’s oldest community, Mantse Agbonaa, has hosted what is axiomatically the biggest arts festival in West Africa as it brings together an alluring mix of artists, musicians, designers, exhibitors.

Chale Wote literally translates to ‘Friend let’s go’ in Ga, the language of indigenes of Accra, but has come to stand for flip-flops.

The festival is a platform that brings art, music, design, dance and performance out onto the streets, taking the form of an exhibition and a carnival.

The community-based festival is an annual event which takes place in James Town one of Accra’s most historic communities and attracts Ghanaian and international artists who create, appreciate and connect through art.

The festival, among others, is to cultivate a wider audience for the arts in West Africa by breaking creative boundaries and using art as a venture.

The festival includes street painting, graffiti murals, photo exhibitions, theatre, spoken word, interactive installations, skate shows, a food and fashion marketplace, photography, live street performances, extreme sports, African Cinema pavilion, street boxing, a fashion parade, a music block party, recyclable design workshops, design labs and much more.

It is the first to be organised in Accra, Ghana and has inspired similar events across the country.

The festival has grown over the years and attracts about 45,000 people every year.

Over 200 Ghana-based and international artists take part in the event every year and the number is expected to soar this year, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) has gathered.

Over the past years, Chale Wote has transformed the city of Accra into the most active cultural hub in West Africa.

The festival has also inspired possibilities in public space design through community supported cultural production, which has attracted Yvan Rodic, a Photographer and Film Director from Switzerland to document this year’s festival.

“I am from Switzerland, but I live in Brazil; I’m here to create beautiful scenes of Chale Wote, Jamestown and Accra,” he says, as he shoots compelling photos of a dance ensemble at Brazil House in Jamestown.

Mantse Aryeequaye, Festival Director, Chale Wote Street Art Festival, says this year’s festival, which started on August 12, would explore oral tradition and literature as an artform on the theme: “Stargate of Africa.”

The annual festival is positioning African oral history to open opportunities and ideas for the development of the African continent, Mr Aryeequaye stated in an interview with the GNA.

In its 12th cycle and 11th year, the prospects of Chale Wote have been tremendous, he says, and explains that it has brought thousands of people onto the streets of Accra and Ghana, translating to direct jobs for people through vending and exhibition.

“The festival has been transformative for the over 10,000 businesses that have benefited from the festival activities over the period,” he adds.

MantseAryeequaye said: “in essence, it has been transformative for the city of Accra and for Ghana. It has been transformative for the artists who have been involved.” 

Indeed, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival has introduced a vibrant alternative visual and performance culture projected by artists with paintings, some of speak to the soul, showing our troubles and hopes, and but also our shared sense of togetherness as a people.

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