At the age of 12, Martin Kwaku Abrokwah’s love for bicycles led him to start saving so he could own one for himself. Growing up in Chorkor was an adventure and as legend would have it, Abrokwah made a name for himself as the go-to guy for a number of things including bike stunting lessons and repairs. Chorkor is a tough place for any kid to grow up and it was no different for him. On the mostly good days, Abrokwah practiced on his bikes and built a crew he could perform around the city with. On the days that weren’t so good, he would get into fights with neighborhood bullies who were uncomfortable letting his art shine.
This was 1980’s Ghana. Things were different then. The country was run by Jerry Rawlings and his pseudo-socialist military government. Sometimes, there was curfew.
Living in Chorkor during that period too meant that young boys like him had to supplement whatever allowance received from parents. It was during this time that a young Abrokwah started selling art to raise money for his biking dreams.
“I was an artist,” Abrokwah shares. “I used to sketch people, and I also made some craft work that I sold on the streets. I saved for one and a half years and then bought my first bicycle. That’s how I started learning bicycle tricks.”
Before he realized that biking was a divine obsession, he was riding like any other person, renting it out to people and repairing bicycles. Later on when he discovered his adeptness at performing serious bicycle stunts, Abrokwah got a BMX biking handbook and started to teach himself bicycle “tricks.”
“In 1989 I found out that biking was my talent, so I got myself a BMX Handbook that I used together with my own creativity to learn and invent more tricks. I am also a dancer and I added the dancing bit to my style and became a bicycle dancer.”
According to Abrokwah, BMX bicycles were not as common as mountain bikes at that time and only Michael Adjavon owned a Flatland BMX in the whole of Accra. But as time passed, people began importing used BMX bicycles like the GT, Mongoose and Flatland from Europe, and that gave him the opportunity to own and train with a Mongoose bike at a place called Indafa in Korle-Bu. Because bicycle aerobatics were not popular among the James Town and Chorkor people, Abrokwah used to venture outside the community to perform at parks during football matches and on the streets of Accra, arresting people’s attention.
After some time, people began loving what he was doing and so there were invitations for him to perform at the National Theatre, though he was sometimes prevented from entering the auditorium with his bicycle because he was not known.
“I was also invited by TV3 to perform on a live show in their studio after they saw videos and pictures of my performances. These made me the first ever bike acrobat to perform on stage at the National Theatre and on TV in Ghana.”
People began to show interest in the bicycle stunts Abrokwah was doing and so he toured some regions of Ghana and even other African countries. “ People started showing appreciation for what I was doing and so I did a Ghana tour. I also went to Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, and many African countries without a passport. My bicycle was my passport. Sometimes at the border, I would perform for the security guys and they’d urge me to enter the next country to perform,” Abrokwah remarks.
After the African tour, he came back to Ghana to organize his own circus. Through the circus he met veteran actor ODK who used to be a lead character in the TV show, “Showcase in Ga” on GTV. ODK was amazed at what Abrokwah could do and connected him to a circus agency in Germany called “Adesa.” In 2004, he moved to Germany to start a career in bicycle acrobatics. Abrokwah says, “when I got to Germany, I learned many more bicycle tricks from the people over there. Unlike Ghana, the Germans and other Europeans see biking as a big sport and so there was better equipment for me to train and perform with.”
As multi-talented and hardworking as he is, the Bike Lord joined his father in-law in the construction field. “Anytime I was not performing, I was on a construction site building houses with my wife’s father. Because of my creativity, I was able to learn fast and now I know everything about construction. From foundation to roofing and painting,” Abrokwah details.
The Bike Lord returned to Ghana in 2008. Upon his arrival, Abrokwah was contacted to perform at the Ghana at 50 celebrations at Independence Square, and once again, he is the first bike acrobat to perform in front of multiple heads of State across Africa, Europe and America. “If people will remember, I was the biker during the Independence Day celebration. I’m the only person who has done that,” he says “ I have performed in front of ex-Presidents Jerry Rawlings, John Kuffour and John Atta Mills before.”
Some young bikers wanted to meet Abrokwah because they’d heard about him. He was excited about their enthusiasm so he accepted to train them and in the process, they formed a group called “Flat Land Boys.” Many people who come into contact with the group have expressed appreciation because biking is still a new practice. This has earned them spots in international music videos like Blitz the Ambassador featuring Seun Kuti’s “Make You No Forget” video and Ghanaian-German music artiste Y’akoto’s “Perfect Timing” video. The Flat Land Boys have also been a mainstay at the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival since 2011.
Bike aerobatics at the festival this year left many people wanting to see more. These young bikers are really changing the face of the sport in Ghana. The Flat Land Boys are receiving invitations to perform at traditional festivals like the Hogbetsotso in the Volta Region. “Many people like what we do now. So they invite the boys to perform at festivals in Ghana. CHALE WOTE has really helped us to be known by many people.”
Abrokwah is doing all he can to help young boys get enough money through the art, so that it urges more people to appreciate and learn about the craft. He’s even getting the bikers he mentors and performs with involved in creative construction. “I have a house in Korle Gornor, I built myself. I knew if I gave it to a contractor, he would charge more. So I organized some of my boys and we built the house.”
Abrokwah says his assignment now is to get women to become passionate about biking and take part in it. He wishes to see women and girls perform bicycle tricks in Ghana by inviting them to the performances and training sessions. “I want to see women in Ghana take part in the sport. I don’t blame them. It is not that popular among women in Europe, too. But I hope I can get women to be part of this team.”
He hopes his daughter Salome will be the first to officially do bike stunts in Ghana. Abrokwah believes the future is very bright for the Flat Land Boys. It’s his dream to get the boys to perform in more festivals outside of Ghana so people are aware of the wild tricks the West African nation is creating.