Welcome to the PARA OTHER boot camp at CHALE WOTE 2018. Day 2 through to Day 5 of the festival hosted The LABs, our activation sessions where we encourage in-depth interaction between participating artists and the audience about the festival theme, PARA OTHER, as well as their ongoing projects for the main festival weekend. Through film screenings, panel discussion, workshops and performances, over 50 artists spread across 2 satellite locations got to share their respective journey’s to Accra for CHALE WOTE as well as give the audience a treat of what to expect at the main week.
Follow the day by day break down for a complete recap of all the activities at The LABs from our media team.
(Fafa MacAuley, Hakeem Adam and Lawrence Ayi)
Tuesday, 21st August 2018 marked the second day of CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival 2018, and the first day of the LABS; the element of the festival where festival attendants and participating artists intimately interact through workshops, talks and film screenings. The first day of the LABS took place at The Folk Space, National Theatre from 12 noon to 7 pm.
The day began with the Music Skillshare Workshop led by Danielle Kyengo O’Neill in room 109 of the National Theatre. The workshop was held for rising musicians interested in learning new ways to improve their crafts.
Simultaneously, Conversations with Regina Magdalena Seblad (Germany), Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero (Nigeria) and Malcolm Emilio (Canada), Baerbel Mueller, Juergen Strohmayer and Stefanie Theuretzbacher (Austria) on the Architecture of Performance began in the Folkspace auditorium of the National Theatre. The conversation deliberated on a variety of topics pertaining to art spaces, architecture and performance spaces. Panelists led insightful discussions about architecture and nature, gentrification of art spaces, the concern surrounding oil and gas and how these issues are translated into performances as an expression of feelings and a means to raise awareness.
Following this, Brett Pyper of Head of School of the Wits University School of Arts (South Africa) took center stage for the talk dubbed ‘Introduction of Arts Research Africa’. He spoke about the efforts in encouraging art research the Wits University is undertaking and the opportunities available in the university for curatorial studies, festival production and art research.
For the next session, the panel comprised of women in various sectors of the music industry shared their experiences and challenges they face in following their passions in the music industry. Danielle Kyengo O’Neill (South Africa), Karen Lee (Canada), Cleo lake (UK), Sensei Lo (Nigeria), Chooc Ly Tan (Cambodia/Thailand) and TMSKD DJ (Ghana) took turns to give the audience insight on what it means to be a woman in music; the battles at every turn and the triumphs that make it all worth it, moderated by Sylvia Arthur.
The Tuesday LABS continued with the screening of films from Thailand, Czech Republic and South Africa. Blind Date by Fanyana Hlabangane was a somewhat somber yet dark comedic look at the ever changing world of online dating and trying to navigate that space as a woman of color. A Gentle Magic by Tseliso Monahengalso stirred up a lot of conversation around skin altering products and colorism, especially amongst South Africans. Cross-sections of the audience present all seemed to agree with the core ethos of the film, which was the need to find pride in our melanin.
We also had the chance to interact with film director, Akinola Davis/Crack Stevens (Nigeria/UK) about the visual aesthetics and social commentary being made in his experimental short films, MARKS OF WORSHIP and THE BOAT THAT BROUGHT ME. He shared very honest reflections on his riveting work, especially relating to how he was able to use filmic language to further problem his complex relationship with Christian religion.
Music and Artist Mixer
We also had a special appearance from 13-year-old DJ Bless from Teshie, a suburb in Accra who warmed up the audience with his infectious afropop and Ga-electro vibes.
The Day came to a close with DJ Būjin / Danielle Kyengo O’Neill from South Africa edging on the audience to dance the night away with her vibrant playlist as we segued into our Artists Mixer. The mixer brought all the over 120 participating artist across different disciplines together to shake off the stress and party before most of the work at the festival began.
(Violette Nalutaaya and Hakeem Adam)
Day 3 of the festival kicked off at Folks Space at the National Theatre, Accra with panel discussions on various topics, including an interactive conversation with members of El-Warcha, a design studio based in Tunisia, providing a working space for the youth to create infrastructure for public spaces. Additionally, there was a panel with the Ubulungiswa: Justice Collective (South Africa) as well as insights into the making of Lucky (2018), an upcoming Ghanaian feature film by Abstrakte Productions. In addition to the “Body Arcana: Connecting to the wisdom within” workshop with Lesley Asare (UK), Day 3 also hosted the Northern Experience, a debut addition to the labs where a special focus was places on the arts and culture of the people of the three northern regions of Ghana.
Black Filmmakers Film Festival: On Africans telling the African story
This session was led by the director of Black Filmmakers Film Festival (BFFF), Simbi Seam Nkula, a venture based out of Cape Town, South Africa. The Black Filmmakers’ Film Festival(BFF) was born out of the mission to connect black filmmakers across the globe and to be a support group for each other. The organization consists of three features including the monthly film festival, the annual film festival and various film workshops. Simbi emphasized the need for Africans to tell their own story especially as the experiences, histories and knowledge shared by all on the continent and in the diaspora are ours to utilize for advancing our narratives.
The Story of El Warcha- A Design based in Madina, Tunisia
Born out of the need to give young people a space and a place to create and collaborate on creating furniture for the public; El Warcha was established in 2016 by Benjamin Perrot. The workshop creates furniture and art for public spaces through collaborations with the communities in which they find themselves. The collective has evolved beyond a workshop to serves as launch pad of opportunity for young people interested in design and functional public architecture.
For the younger members of the collective who made it to Accra for the festival, this was their first time travelling out of Tunisia. To them, the trip to Ghana as well as working with other young people in James Town has made them realize that there is a lot more going on in the continent, in terms of culture and design which made them eager to want to more learn and innovate when they go back to Tunisia. Speaking to moderator Paul Sika, the collective shared the need to always find a balance between work and creativity as architects working in design spaces. The founder Benjamin Perrot also talked about how he raised initial capital for the workshop, as a grant, and how he has continued to find funding for the project through leveraging various relationships.
Represented in Accra by Elgin Rust, the Ubulungiswa/Justice Collective presented artwork done in a collaboration between 23 artists from different disciplines in and outside South Africa as an address to various social and political narratives in that country. The work was created in response to the massive campaign calling for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the University of Cape Town campus in 2015. The #RhodesMustFall campaigns, as it has been known online, combined with the re-eruption of xenophobic attacks birthed inspired the collaboration which manifested final in the video art and photography exhibition that the collective will present at the festival. Speaking to moderator Katharina Gartner, Elgin Rust shared how unity in times of adversity of people from different backgrounds was a necessity which also magnetized the artists together to have a participation that is inclusive and also representative of voices of different disciplines and backgrounds.
The Making of Lucky
The feature film by director Fofo Gavua of Absrakte, was born out of personal experiences, seeing a gap in showing the African youth and the desire to see a film that shows what it means to be at university for young Ghanaian youth who is trying to study but also have a social life. He spoke very candidly to the audience about the process of making the film; also from small details such as making sure the right camera was used to figuring out the right cast, both of which are essential to giving his story the right life. Fofo also talked about how community spirit was a major catalyst in creating the film. Especially with the cast, most of them had personal connections with him which made collaborating on this project a bit more palatable. Make sure to watch Lucky when it premiers on September 7, 2018.
The Northern Experience
The Northern Experience was another debut addition to the festival this year. This segment of The LABs put a special focus on the culture and lifestyle of various ethnic groups inhabiting, but not limited to the three northern regions of Ghana. Through film screenings, music and dance performances and panel discussion, The Northern Experience stirred up urgent interest in various facets of the arts and culture of the north.
The segment began with three short films; To Join The Star by Hakeem Adam, The Firminist by Wanlov the Kubolor and Untitled by Josephine Kuuire. Josephine’s film was the first in a series of video art projects she’s establishing where she puts visual to relics of highlife music. This first edition was on Christie Azumah, one of the first women to produce Highlife music in Ghana. She along with Hakeem Adam, whose experimental film shout to throw light on the indigenous burial practices in Northern Ghana spoke with Kwame Boafo about the urgent need to experiment as filmmakers, especially in the un-enabling climate in which they find themselves.
We then had a panel on the History of some of the major and minor ethnic groups inhabiting the norther parts of Ghana. This was introduced by the screening of a documentary by Roland Mandiaya Sumani Seini, titled the Forgotten Kingdom which narrates the history of the modern kingdoms who preside over northern Ghana. After the film, the director, along with Dr. Ọbádélé Kambon and Dr. Edward Nanbigne engaged in a panel discussion, attempting to bring out some of the key details of the migrating narrative and kingship structures of the ethnic groups in Northern Ghana.
The Dagara Cultural Troupe then gave the audience part two of their show at Day 1 of the festival at Brazil House with a good doze of music and dance. We then screened Nakom, a film which casts a very wide net over life and the absence of opportunity in northern Ghana. Fortunately, we had the lead actor Jacob Ayanaba and producer Issac Adakudugu to walk us through the process of collaborating with the filmmakers Kelly Daniela Norris and TW Pittman as well as the impact such a film has had on their lives back in the town of Nakom.
(Violette Nalutaaya and Hakeem Adam)
We moved to Kukun in Osu for Day 4 of CHALE WOTE 2018. In the gentle shade of the white tents that mask the open courtyard of the café/workspace, typical LABs programing went ahead with film screenings and panel discussion taking place at the forecourt, whilst a dance workshop with Cleo Lake (UK) took place on the first floor. Thursday at Kukun also welcomed the introduce of the Sabolai Radio theatre and acoustic night, a special evening of intimate performances from soulful acoustic acts and experimental dance theatre recitals.
Street Art Aesthetics
Day 4 began with a panel discussion on street art aesthetics. Moderated by Violette Nalutaaya, this panel focused on understanding the work of two artists Komi Olaf (Canada) and Amina Gimba (Nigeria) to show the role street art aesthetics play in preserving the African culture but also in creating new futures for the continent. Amina who is a full time graphic artist has worked on illustration series that show different aspects of life in Nigeria. Amina’s work at the festival this year focuses on the need to preserve the origins of language through visual art; she has therefore developed a mural titled The Mask of Knowledge, showing origins of language through the combination of various symbols and graphic writing forms on the interior walls of Brazil House.
Komi Olaf’s work is typically collaborative and focuses on portraying Afrofuturism through his brush. His work at the festival in addition to a multi-panel mural also included a documentary “Awakening of Sankofa”, a multi-media mural and film installation conceived by Ian Keteku, Donisha Prendergast and Komi Olaf. The film presents an investigation and experiment with the histories between the continent and the diaspora that we find ourselves to be a part, and the dimensions that we exist on. The documentary shows the work of the collaborators calling upon Africans to unite and calling upon Africans to organize in small ways following the inspiration of our founding fathers including a Kwame Nkurumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba for a United Africa.
Psychology of Performance Art
This panel went deep and diverse to explain the role of body movements as seen in different paradigms especially self-discovery and race. The panelists explained how CHALE WOTE is an opportunity to explore the meaning of being “othered’ in different contexts and how performance enables the freedom and conversations to start. The panel was made up of Cleo Lake (UK), Ayanda Seoka (South Africa), Effie Nkrumah (Ghana), Charlotte Brathwaite (USA), Lesley Asare (UK) and was moderated by Bianca Manu of Nubuke Foundation.
The panelists recommended documentation of the work they do and made a reflection on the need for documentation as some of the people who may not attend the different sessions on dance; may be due to the fact that they feel they don’t belong in these spaces. As performance artists they showed the need to create works that would build and not hurt people. Therefore, in making choreography, it is an invitation to participate that is voluntary and not pressured.
Purple Harmattan; Poetry Anthology by Elikplim Akorli
Ghanaian poet and spoken word artist Elikplim Akorli then had the chance to interact with Kwame Boafo about his upcoming poetry anthology titled Purple Harmattan. The writing of the book was both intentional and unintentional as the artist writes often and is able to take off time to reflect on different life’s processes specifically love and relationships. Sitting down to understand the motivation behind writing short poems in the book that was written by the artist, shows the role of language liberation. Elikplim explains how the book enables people to express themselves freely and fully; through the in-depth of the poems.
We then entered a series of film screening, watching ONLY WHEN ITS DARK ENOUGH CAN YOU SEE THE STARS by Charlotte Brathwaite and Supa Modo by Likarion Wainaina.
House music connoisseur, Sensei Lo (Nigeria) then warmed up the stage with her pulsating and infectious electro and Afro-pop dance beats. The faders were then turned down after Sensei Lo’s set for the Sabolai Radio Theatre and Acoustic Night. We experienced experimental dance recitals by Cleo Lake (UK) and her dance troupe as well as Shelly Ohene Nyarko, before Maka, Terra x Bella and Kev Soul treated us with warm vocal work on a cold and foggy night.
For Day 5 of CHALE WOTE 2018, we were back under the shade at Kukun in Osu for more film screenings and panel discussions. We kicked off the final day of the PARA OTHER boot camp with a presentation of Prisms of Freedom video art project by crazinisT artisT (Fiatsi Va-Bene). Prism of Freedom project was made up of 16 One-minute films by various international visual artists challenging the socio-political status of freedom. The short films emphasized the need to be embracing of our uniqueness as human beings.
We then went on with screening of Black Barbie by Comfort Arthur and Gardienne by Djibril Drame. The latter challenged traditional narrative structures by weaving the story of Muluken and Lukas, sister and brother, with that of Israel Dejene, founder of Megabiskate to create to picture of life in Entoto, whilst Black Barbie made social commentary on the need to find and maintain pride in the natural pigments of our skin color.
Films from The Wits School of Arts by Nduka Mntambo and Palesa Shongwe
Later in the day, the Wits University contingent at CHALE WOTE this year continued their programming by screening five short film by students and faculty of the Wits School of Arts in South Africa. Led by Nduka Mntambo and Palesa Shongwe, the films screen presented a myriad of interest from the politics of cities to informal sectors of production in other African countries and filmic essays interrogating ethnographic practices.
We were back at Folks Space, National Theatre to usher in the CHALE WOTE 2018 main festival weekend with a masquerade jam. The dress up party was a warm up to all the fun planned for Saturday and Sunday featuring DJ Sets Sensei Lo (Nigeria), Bujin (South Africa), Chooc Ly Tan (Vietnam) and Keyzuz (Ghana) as well as performances from Nana Benyin and Jean Feier.
Written by Fafa MacAuley, Hakeem Adam, Violette Nalutaaya and Lawrence Ayi
Images: Abdul Arafat, Josephine Kuuire, Obuobi