The end of a trilogy of themes, CHALE WOTE 2017 began on Monday evening with a captivating journey exploring African Electronics (2015) and Spirit Robot (2016) and finally landing in WATA MATA (2017). The opening ceremony for the 7th annual CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival took place at the ACCRA [dot] ALT space in James Town, Brazil House yesterday as “The Day of ReMembering” and an opening exhibition for CHALE WOTE 2017. The 7th edition of the street art festival themed WATA MATA, was marked by spectacular live performances, a preview of what the packed festival week of exhibitions, film screenings, workshop labs, artists talks, mixers and live art performances has in store.Logistics Coordinator with ACCRA [dot] ALT and James Town resident, Samoa Mark-Kpakpo Hansen, opened the event by contextualizing what WATA MATA means within this environment. Also a Ga traditional priest, Samoa poured libations and opened the communication channels. He discussed the division of religion and science and connected this to how water is a sacred form of life, autonomy, community and imagination. Samoa’s interpretation of WATA MATA is as a binding agent, both spiritually and physically, especially in James Town where life is centred around the ocean, and therefore, can be used as a potent tool or technology to generate our deepest visions. Following this opening, the audience witnessed the “Badboy BODY Electronics” of the Hutor Adzimashie Bali and the Hu-Koku Association. These men of steel from the Torgbui Adzima Shrine in Torgodo, Volta Region sparked a fire with their electrifying performance practice. The ensemble – including dancers and musicians – showed how internal technologies can take over as the men taunted and defied death many times – cutting their faces, torsos, necks and limbs with long knives; bathing their bodies in fire; and disgorging long spools of thread.
Another enthralling performance took place with Tifali Cultural Consults, a 25-women performance art collective, exploring the move to Spirit Robot, the theme for CHALE WOTE 2016, where pan-African imaginative visions link up to form a structure or system that we can all tap into for resources when needed. Their performance art piece entitled “K3 Yei (…and the women…)”, used an innovative mix of contemporary and traditional dance with music exploring the love, verve, warrior spirit and solidarity of women-based practices.
A special part of The Day of ReMembering was how performers, CHALE WOTE artists, James Town residents and audience members partook in this collective and sacred cleansing process. Together we recollect the traumatic histories experienced in James Town through the transatlantic enslaved trade but we also bear witness to how we can regenerate and innovate our historical realities. Members of the Hu-Koku Association, Samoa Mark-Kpakpo Hansen and STELOO led a wondrous procession from Brazil Lane to James Fort’s Oyenyi Gardens, a former prison that also once held Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for 10 months prior to Ghana’s independence.
STELOO, on a trolley outfitted with fat speakers and a large-winged white suit, set a melancholic mood in motion with spellbinding electronic and ambient music for the walk, re-centering James Town’s vast historical importance to the country and West Africa, as a major point of capture/departure for the enslaved, and therefore, the portal for re-entry and reunification of African peoples.
The exhibition at Brazil House is open throughout the week and features the work of Ghana-based and international artists on both floors of the building. Day 2 of CHALE WOTE 2017 (Tuesday, August 15) features a creative writing masterclass led by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at Brazil House (bottom floor) for 8 selected writers from 2-4:30pm. Following this, CHALE WOTE 2017 participant, April Bey (U.S.), delivers a lecture, shares some screenings and takes part in a Q+A with the audience on “Dolezalism and Jollof Rice”, at the National Theatre (Folkspace) from 6-8pm.
Writing by Hakeem Adam and Sionne Neely
Photo Credit: Nii Kotei Nikoi & Abdul Arafat