Chale Wote (Buddy Let’s go)
Chale Wote, the 6th edition of the mass-appeal Street Art Festival in the heart of Jamestown, Accra took place this last weekend.
In the shadows of the Jamestown lighthouse, so much light and color was being transferred to festival goers, and surrounding community. Chale Wote, meaning “Man, let’s go!” is the largest street art festival in West Africa, and put on by the folks at Accra dot ALT Radio.
The people went! Folks came out to experience live painting, graffiti, artists parades, boxing/arm wrestling (which my husband left victorious), avant garde and socially/politically charged performance art, studio art, vendors, and hip-hop, spoken-word, and a mash-up of all of the above.
This years theme, Spirit Robot charged not only the artists, but the festival goers to examine their robotic, mundane nature. Work, home, work home, yeah it’s possible.
Without much meandering through Chale Wote, the street art will soon consume you. My perusing of pictures of years prior, there was some avant garde performance art, and this year didn’t lessen up.
I may have witnessed a chicken sacrifice, I’m not sure, in attending SERGE ATTUKWEI CLOTTEY peice, Practical Common Sense. Serge is certainly not a Robot, he’s coined a new art term- Afrogallonism his artistic concept of repurposing the ‘jerrycans’ or yellow containers used for water, that overcrowd Accra.
As an African-American, actually I’ll just go by Black from now on…being in Africa for an extended amount of time has elevated my difference by experience. However, I felt a certain symbiotic Black Power moment with much of the paintings chosen for display. There was a heavy BLACK LIVES MATTER thread throughout so many pieces; like a depiction of the President and First Lady under the foot and gun of white policemen, and a diatribe of demands marked up a slew of the large works.
I came excited for the fashion, the fashion of the street. No doubt folks came in an amazing collision of traditional kente daisy dukes and head wraps, with a hipster swag I’ve never seen before. Ladies rocked the long traditional print skirts with mid drift tops, and if they wanted a something extra, face paint that Fela! would be proud of.
The men came correct with tight-fit jeans, or patchwork print shorts/pants, and most adorned themselves with the smart dude/Malcolm X/I have a job glasses.
Chale Wote wasn’t just a bunch of hipsters displaying their cool, the community of Jamestown embraced all of this! Many new murals popped up, a large Ga ((the local tribe) funeral was held smack in the middle of the festivities, and the energy and beauty of community just added to the visual overload of Chale Wote.
Kids running around, smiling, faces painted, being inspired, life is good!
All of our Spirit Robots were elated and measured against the past of Jamestown, amongst rubble of new/old/empty buildings and old slave forts, in the shadow of a lighthouse. I think being in the shadow of a lighthouse is a good omen, to keep shining light on what’s changing and what needs to be re-examined. Our Spirit Robots may have actually transformed into human this past weekend, and waiting for next year.