For 9 years, Jamestown in Accra has been the spot for what is arguably the biggest art festival in West Africa – The Chale Wote Street Art Festival. ChaleWote2019 was its 9th successive year which is produced by ACCRA[dot]ALT. The festival is an alternative platform that brings art, music, dance and performance out of the galleries onto the streets.
This year’s edition, themed PIDGIN IMAGINARIUM, spanned from August 14th – 25th, 2019. PIDGIN IMAGINARIUM which was inspired by “vernacular creativity” where the African pidgin language has survived through time and space but us (Africans) thinking about pidgin not being just a language, but more as a philosophy of resistance.
The 11-day marathon of events began with the LABs. A major aspect of the festival which involves filmmakers and other visual and performing artists host workshops, salons and discussions about their work and life. The LABs is also a mini cinema I’ll say, screening independently produced films by participating artists.
Chale Wote since I have witnessed it, has always taken place at the same time with the Homowo festival of the people of Jamestown and 2019 was no exception as there were processions in Connection with Homowo and Ga/Ghanaian traditions.
There was also the Shika Shika art fair which opened with an exhibition of artworks by emerging and established contemporary artists from Africa and South America.
The final 2 days of the festival (ie. Saturday & Sunday) was and has always been the highlight. For many years, the streets of Jamestown has been the destination and nowhere else. Every year since the festival’s inception sees a surge in the numbers of attendees. 2019 was no different but the streets were quite free this time around thanks to the organizers for opening up spots for different activities.
“Chale Wote Weekend” as I call it was so many things in one: street painting, graffiti murals, photography, interactive art installations, live street performances, extreme sports, fashion parades, music block parties, masquerades, costumes, food, drinks and much more all happening right on the streets. There is actually not a single dull moment.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival I must say is giving Ghanaian creatives an avenue and obviously a louder voice and oh, a period for the people of Jamestown to cash in too. In the midst of a rather ‘chaotic’ streets were beautiful people, colour, smiles, love, fun and a moment to relish. I’m already making plans for next year. Until then, see you.