THIS STROLLING GOATS edition takes place at different sites connecting James Town including James Fort, Brazil House and Bòdè (a storage shelter for goats and sheeps for Northern Ghanaian and West African cattle traders prior to slaughter). These street routes will feature exhibitions and performances during CHALE WOTE 2017. This is a chance to get an inside look at where some of the action will be. Click the arrows on the images above to unfold the full gallery.
The CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival is in its sixth year, and the host community, James Town, is plenty rife with unearthed gems. Yet the stubborn curiosity of Strolling Goat knows no bounds in exploring the city of Accra. That’s how I ended up at the mouth of an old tunnel in Franklin House. The ageless groundnut-brown walls of the building with a missing roof preserve the forgotten stories of the enslaved who transitioned through Accra during the transatlantic trade. This year, those same walls will come to know new stories through a series of installations that will be situated at the living museum that is Franklin House as well its neighbor Brazil House and the surrounding Brazil Lane.
The tunnels underneath Franklin House run throughout James Town and stretch as far as the Christiansburg Castle in Osu. Today, they are blocked by trash – an apt metaphor for the “in-the-pipeline” approach to policy that weaken this country. Yet artists like Martin Kwaku Abrokwah – “the King of bikes”, a BMX stunt man and designer who has trained most of the bikers in Ghana and has been a part of CHALE WOTE since the beginning – continues to thrive in spite of whatever broods in the tunnels. Perched on his unicycle with white wings, this spectacular appearance has become one of the icons of the festival.
CHALE WOTE continues to demonstrate how the energy zipping through Accra is transforming into electrifying art. James Town has become a creative cocoon where brilliant ideas are nesting against the backdrop of a rich history and innovating new kinds of possibilities. The buildings tagged with graffiti, like Brazil House and neighboring kiosks, and the installations that remain after the festival go beyond aesthetics in servicing the community and becoming sources of inspiration for artists throughout Ghana, the continent and the world.
James Fort, a British trading post that took shape in 1673 and finally closed as a dilapidated prison in 2007, is another untapped vault the festival will spotlight. The Strolling Goats were able to peak over the imposing white and black walls to also reveal this former dungeon for the enslaved before they were transported to an unknown, ripping future on the sea. It now stands as a mirage of fragments of Ghana’s history with enslavement, colonization and incarceration. Over 400 years later and the building still maintains the hard lines, windowless cells and narrow hallways of its harrowing heyday.
How do we make sense of these colliding histories and step forward into a different paradigm of making in the ever present now? Next month, we will delve into the waters of this matter.
Be sure to catch all the exhibitions, performances and extreme sports happening at James Fort, Light House area, Ussher Fort, James Town Police Station area and Brazil House plus more during the seventh annual CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival.
Story by Hakeem Adam