I don’t recall when I first heard of CHALE WOTE. It was likely the cool photos on Tumblr that brought the festival to my attention. It doesn’t matter much because it didn’t take long for me to conclude that I would be going to the festival.
Accra is about an hour away from Abuja and I needed any excuse to travel. I planned my trip and somehow found myself part of the Adventures panel. This was last year. Last year, I headed to CHALE WOTE not knowing what to expect.
I rushed through The LABS but had to leave on Sunday (to return to work on Monday) and felt that I only experienced half of the festival. I knew I would return this year and spend a longer time.
I can now say that the part of CHALE WOTE I really enjoy is The LABS (Thursday, Aug 18 + Friday, August 19). I like the small, almost intimate sessions and I like getting to know the artists. It’s an amazing opportunity to know what’s behind the scenes and builds up what to expect when the festival hits the streets of James Town for the weekend.
I enjoyed been in a chill environment and connecting with other creative people. I’m not an artist and don’t consider myself artistically inclined. But one thing CHALE WOTE made me realise is that I lacked exposure to the beauty of what African art has to offer.
CHALE WOTE has many spectres and I suspect that with each year, I will experience bits and pieces of it. It’s hard, at least for me, to absorb all the awesomeness that the festival has to offer just once. The festival is more than arts and also offers entertainment and food. I’ve mainly focused on the intimate art side of things, spending more time in Brazil House than at Mantse Agbonaa, for instance. I missed the procession last year but got to see a bit of it this year.
The installation I was particularly looking forward to this year was that of Awuor Onyango who had gathered a collection of short clips of Black women throughout time. I did get to connect with Awuor and see some of the clips she had chosen.
The key takeaways for me from CHALE WOTE are the chance to vibe and be in a chill environment that is wildly creative. It is a great opportunity to network, not the business or career kind, but rather making friends and establishing bonds that last. It’s a great reminder that the African arts scene is thriving outside the walls of galleries and that it is evolving and will continue to do so.
This year’s theme is that it aims to address the struggle that comes with being a post-colonial African. Due to the trauma of colonization, we are disconnected from the spirit and have been programmed to place more importance on cultures that aren’t our own. This is a continuation of the African Electronics theme. I personally am thrilled to see that other people combine the African past and future in ways that I can only dream of.
CHALE WOTE is part of a continuum to me, last year was just part one for me and there are many parts to be experienced and savoured. Take THE LABS, for example, it felt like I was at them only the day before.There were new selections on display and new people to meet, as well as new topics to discuss, but it was essentially the same vibe.
Photos: Nii Kotei
Rafeaat is a writer of weird and speculative fiction. She’s a fan of horror movies and sweets. You can read some of her work here.