CHALE WOTE 2017 Day 4 marked the first day of The LABs, two days of film screenings, artist talks, performances, special workshops, and DJ mixers with participating artists and enthusiasts from all over the world. Hosted at Terra Alta in Abelemkpe (near Lucas College) The LABs provided a platform for artists to speak on their work at the festival and steer the minds of the audience towards the WATA MATA.

The events kicked-off on Thursday at noon with first panel discussion, moderated by KaDi Tay, on Ghanaian Digital Art, Graffiti, and Photography. The panelists were Ghanaian artists Kamal Larry, representing Nima Muhinmanchi Art, Josephine Kuuire, Comfort Arthur, and Ahmed Partey whose work will be on display inside James Fort Prison and Brazil House during the festival. Some key insights raised on this panel were the links between liberty, social justice, and artistic collaboration. Comfort, an illustrator, began by highlighting how WATA MATA is reflected in the freedom in her character ‘Naughty Nii’s’ actions. She described this freedom as necessarily ‘collaborative’ since ‘Animation is not a one-man job.’ Echoing these sentiments, Kamal from Nima Muhinmanchi Art explained how his collective is giving people the means to address social issues, especially sanitation and healthcare.  For Kamal, WATA MATA is a system of fluidity that should encourage collaboration.  

Illustrator Comfort Arthur speaking on a panel at The LABs || Photo: Nii Kotei Nikoi

As the first panel was underway, there was a simultaneous masterclass on traditional Martinican music and the Bélé Drum offered by DJ NOSS from Martinique.  Noss, along with about eight participants, many of them other musicians performing at CHALE WOTE 2017, sat in a circle while he explained aspects of the history, culture, rhythmic patterns of Martinican music.  

DJ Noss (Martinique) playing at The LABs || Photo: Nii Kotei Nikoi

After Panel 1 and the masterclass were two more panels.  Panel 2, moderated by Maame Akua Kyerewaa Marfo, was on ‘Performing’ and featured a dance collective from the United States called The African Body Snatchers: Ayana Evans, Megan Livingston, Nana Ama Bentsi-Enchill and Tsedaye Makonnen.  The African Body Snatchers talked about how they collected water from Jamestown, Virginia, the birthplace of the British slave trade in North America, to use during their performance in Jamestown, Accra.  Nana Ama explained the difficulties of growing up as an African in Virginia, while Tsedaye talked about how their performance was a means of correcting the inaccuracies of slavery.  Their aim? To become embodied deities as they dance at Chale Wote 2017.

Ayana Evans, member of the African Body Snatchers speaking at The LABs || Photo: Abdul Arafat

Panel 3, moderated by Rita Nketiah, was on ‘Wave-Making Women’ and featured Barbara Sibenlist (Argentina), Abigail Sena Atsugah (Ghana), Lineo Segoete (LeSotho) and Latifah Iddriss (Ghana).  The theme of WATA MATA as freedom emerged again in this panel.  Barbara explained that the mural she is painting by Brazil House tackles questions of liberation and freedom for women and children.  Latifah lamented the constraints that women face, often lacking the freedom as artists to have their work recognized as legitimate.  The speakers also highlighted the social media campaigned #notaskingforit, which seeks to eradicate rape culture.  

Latifah Iddriss speaking on the Wave-Making Women panel at CHALE WOTE 2017, The LABs || Photo: Nii Kotei Nikoi

All three panels were fascinating and the audience excitedly engaged the speakers and artists with questions about their social standpoints, artistic inspirations, and political motivations. As the day turned to night, The Labs also transitioned to a Caribbean interlude, with a screening of J’Ouvert, a film by Fiona Compton and Chantal Miller on carnival culture, followed by, a set dedicated to African women by Fort-de-France’s own DJ Noss.  The mood was electric as people danced, chatted with friends, both old and new alike, and took advantage of the great selection of snacks and drinks offered at Terra Alta.   

Members of the audience during DJ Noss’ mixer at The LABs || Photo: Nii Kotei Nikoi

As night fell and everyone had danced to their hearts desire, the first day of The Labs closed with film screenings, beginning with Dear Valentine (2016), a romantic comedy by Worlanyo Ansah.  Dear Valentine is about a man whose partner has finally agreed to take their relationship ‘to the next level’ but his plans are thwarted when mid-cuddle she suddenly needs to use the washroom and he does not have one in his house.  In the artist Q&A following the talk moderated by Nii Noi Adom, Worlanyo explained that she used comedy to highlight the social issues surrounding the public bathroom industry in Ghana and the epidemic lack of private home bathrooms in many communities.  The 7 films that followed also tackled similarly complex social issues, from intergenerational communication across languages (Mother Tongues, 2017, Victoria Adukwei Bulley) to shadeism and colorism (Shadeism: Digging Deeper, 2015, Nayani Thiyagarajah).

The LABs at night || Photo: Nii Kotei Nikoi


The LABs continue on Day 5 of CHALE WOTE 2017 at the Dubois Centre, with more conversations, workshop/create session and film screenings from midday. The program for the LABs Day 2 includes: Artist lens on student filmmaking with final year students of the University of Ghana, Artist Flows on Rituals, Environment, and Disrupting Historical Memory with, Martin Toloku (Ghana), Lenneke Bisschop (Netherlands), and Chriss Nwobu (Nigeria), moderated Moshood Malogun and Artist Flows on Chaos, Body Technologies and Community Regeneration Systems with Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (Ghana), John Herman (Germany), and DJ Noss (Martinique/France), moderated Pamela Ohene-Nyako.

The first set of films to be screened included: Thought We Had Something Going (TWHSG) (South Africa, 2017), Lhola Amira: Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase (Lhola Amira, 2017), Kitchwateli (2011, Muchiri Njenga), and Everybody You Know is Here (Addoley Akosuah Dzegede, 2017). This will then be followed by a mixer with House Music connoisseur DJ Sensei Lo from Nigeria. Then the second set of film screenings including: A Man’s Story (2017, Fernando Arrioja), Keys of Life (2017, Vusi Magubane), Mdree-Bahree Land of the Sea (2017,Miriam Haile), and Coping (2016, Edem Dotse), Body as Technology (2016, Sharrae Lyon), Nutricula (2015, Yasen Vasiley). All ten episodes of web series, Tuko Macho (2016, The NEST Collective) will also be screened concurrently during The LABS at the same venue.

Written by: Nana Osei Quarshie

Edited by: Hakeem Adam

Photos: Nii Kotei Nikoi, Adbul Arafat


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