A free urban arts festival, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival could soon be the in-thing on the GH street arts scene. Co-sponsored by ACCRA [dot] ALT, The French Embassy (in Ghana) and Institut Francais, the first edition of the soon-to-be annual international festival will take place on July 16, 2011 in the Jamestown community of downtown Accra from 10am till 10pm. The event is the brainchild of Mantse Aryeequaye (an independent filmmaker) and Dr. Sionne Neely (a researcher and writer); both coordinators of ACCRA [dot] ALT.  In the words of the organizers, its purpose is “to promote the exhibition of alternative art in Ghana and to nurture an appreciation for different kinds of art among Ghanaians.”

The first time I read about the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, I thought: interesting name. The second time around during GhanaBlogging’s July meetup over the weekend, I got a peek at the schedule of events and thought, interesting concept/project!  Now, after some musing over what this festival could mean for Ghana’s arts and culture/tourism scene, I’m thinking 100% innovation. Why such an endorsement? Well, for one thing, we don’t seem to have as many cross-generational, hip, artsy events in Accra (or Ghana for that matter). Sure we have 100 and something festivals but those are traditional. Not that I have anything against traditional festivals. I just think they tend to be more (ethnic) group-based.
Innovative how? Well take the name, “Chale Wote”, which means “Man, Let’s Go”. I don’t know the exact origins of the term, but in Ghana it has been assigned to the flip flops or plastic slippers that, I’d bet my weekly fufu on, graces every Ghanaian’s feet at one point or another. Symbolically, chale wote emphasizes the undeniable link between Ghanaians irrespective of our different backgrounds, whether rich or poor, educated or not, from north or south, we all wear it. If you ask me, I think it’s a pretty appropriate name  considering the  festival will involves a series of arts-oriented activities and projects – spoken word, painting, a “Funky Fishnet psychedelic fashion show”, an array of biker/rollerskater/skateboarde stunts, kite making a la Ghana-style, experimental theater, t-shirt construction and trash sculpture workshops for kids from JamesTown schools, and many others – all within walking distance. Yes, you read right. You can literally shuffle your chale wotes from one interesting activity to the next since it will all be held from the Lighthouse in James Town to the old Kings Way Building close to High Street; probably what would qualify as the “original” Accra or downtown. How neat is that? 

What makes it great? Well, in comparison to countries like Senegal which have a very strong (urban) arts scene – probably due to the fact that tourism is one of the key revenue generators – Ghana’s arts scene is generally untapped or rather, not deeply explored. As the co-sponsors are French institutions I’m beginning to wonder if it might be a “French” thing as well. The French do have a massive appreciation for the arts, right? (Think Musee de Louvre, La Tour Eiffel etc) Secondly, most Ghanaians tend to stay within their little bubbles and don’t really explore the depth of history, culture and insight that abounds across the different parts of Ghana. Think I’m making too much of a bold statement? How many have been anywhere beyond Kumasi to say, the northern region? Bon, this festival is a unique opportunity to “travel” and experience just that – and right in Accra too!  Finally, it’s encouraging and support home grown artistes, or if you’d like a more technical term, Ghana’s human resource base.

I don’t know about you, but just thinking of the event which the organizers have dubbed as a “Do It Yourself” festival brings colour, excitement, creativity and vibrancy to my mind. I mean, with acrobatics, graffiti painting, fashion, musical performances from artistes like Trigmatic, Yaa Pono and Mutombo, and  let’s not forget FOOD, it’s got passion written all over it. Besides, with all the rain we’ve had these couple weeks – not that I’m complaining – it’s about time we breathed in some novelty. (Fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain on the D-day) So there!  Something to mark your calendars for. See the full schedule below. Hope you make it and let us know how it goes! Quick recap:

Date: Saturday July 16, 2011 
Time: 10am to 10pm
Partners: Dust Magazine,  Ga Mashie Development Agency, JustGhana, The Foundation for Contemporary Artistes, Attukwei Art Foundation, Pidgin Music, Redd Kat Pictures, The WEB
Live music performances: Trigmatic, Yaa Pono, Mutombo, Artistes from Skillions Records, E.L., C-Real, Scizo, Delasi, and many more.
Fee FREE!!! (You have absolutely no excuse for being a no-show!)

Contact: www.facebook.com/ACCRAdotAlt | accra.alt@gmail.com. | Tel: (+233) 0279942414

Chale Wote Street Festival Schedule

Photo Source: Chale Wote Street Festival Event Page, Accra [Dot] Alt Facebook page