The CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival is traditionally known for its eccentric and multi-faceted street arts exhibitions and installations dotted along the streets of Jamestown, Accra from live mural engineering to extreme sports clinics and street fashion flight schools. The visual art has been at the forefront and steered the festival. However, in the past few years, the performing art has become an intrinsic part of the festival producing disparate experiential and iconic performances, whilst providing lucid physical representations of various experimental and existing knowledge bases .
The eighth edition of the festival, which took place from August 20-26, 2018, brought together a record number of performance based artists from all over the world, ranging from immersive to site-specific performances. These thought-provoking and visually captivating performances leapfrogged the audience into generative discussions, thought experimentation and idea remixing with an ultimate intention to push the frontier of performance. Below is a brief recap of the performance work generated and/or exhibited at CHALE WOTE this year in response to the festival theme PARA OTHER : a transatlantic shortwave that transcends language and geography
The Sabolai Radio Theatre and Acoustic Night which was held on the Day 4 of the festival week commenced the rich tapestry of performances. The audience that thronged Kukun were thrilled by Shelly Ohene-Nyarko and Fatima Fadel’s performance “Life is What You Make it”. This piece used corporeal movement and sourced high life music as a means of engaging with complex issues about life, identity, and culture. The nostalgic feeling of Agya Koo Nimo’s “Enoa Ne Woa” sets the context and atmosphere for the performance.
Later that evening, Cleo Lake a British artist and Lord Mayor of Bristol in the UK presented ‘Red Waters/Mind Locked’. This piece is sourced from Bristol history and heraldry alongside Dahomey dance vocabulary from Benin. The performance was interspersed with dialogues and energetic movement patterns that took the audience through a Catholic of experiences.
On the weekend of the festival week, at James Fort, a formal slave cell held the intrepid performance installation of crazinisT artisT (Va-bene Elikem Fiatsi) from Ghana. In his “AgbaWnu”, he used his body as an artistic spectacle to evoke emotions and make commentary on civic and military brutalities given the upsurge of such brutalities on the marginalized that is tacitly supported by the state. His piece looks painful but it presents an undoubted truth about the living body being much more powerful than any other. His installation creates a poignant image of the brutalities that people go through on a daily basis. “AgbaWnu” rides the lines between brutal honesty and spectacle.
Nigeria’s Stacey Okparavero’s ‘Alternative Truth’ transcended space and time and made a clarion call on the Nigerian government to develop a better framework for managing the oil-rich Niger Delta. This piece is phenomenal within the Ghanaian context given that Ghana commenced exploration of a large quantity of oil in 2009. The piece prompts Ghanaians to begin an open and honest conversation on the complex and unwelcome consequences of oil exploration and its politics.
Effie Nkrumah’s ‘See What I See’ made commentary on issues such as her Ghanaian heritage and the white gaze. This interactive piece invited the audience to engage with living images and put them through an emotional trajectory that made them confront their own truth.
Charlotte Brathwaite and her collaborator Abigail DeVilles performance installation ‘Within the Sand and the Sea’ which started from the Ussher Fort presented a concentrated ritual that explored humanity’s universal link to a land through which varied cultures have passed and left their residue. The performance was a meditation on lost and forgotten places and people. The visual aesthetics and procession presented a dreamlike poetic effect that took the audience through an ethereal journey.
Lesley Asare’s (British Ghanaian) ‘Body Arcana’ uses the performer’s body as a canvas that is embedded with collective memory and parallels with the cycle of life and death. After her performance, she leaves on a drawing paper what looks like a womb which suggests unearthing and burying of personal and collective stories. Her performance flowed through a physical and visceral conversation among dance, painting, and narration.
Egyptian artist and curator Rasha Ragab and German artist, stoneharp player Christoph Nicolaus, a performance duo known as Toffaha gave two performance over the festival weekend at Otublohum Square. Their performance at the festival titled Weavey involved verbal and non-verbal communication mediums very much in line with the Para other.
Kiffouly Youchou’s (Benin) performance ‘The 7th Continent’ engaged young thespians from Jamestown. The Beninois artist’s powerful piece investigated the negative impact of plastic waste on the ocean environment. Working with young people from Jamestown, Kiffouly introduced a community inclusive and immersive experience that questions our collective responsibility and contribution to the menace of plastic waste in our ocean environment. This piece is quite profound considering that Jamestown, a fishing community is a victim of plastic waste pollution. By immersing himself in dirty oil, he tells of the harm that is caused by the ingestion of plastic waste and the exposure of chemicals within plastics on the living organism.
Ayanda Seoka’s (South Africa) ‘Mujaji The Rain’ was a captivating piece that explored herself in a space that she is not comfortable but willing to confront. She entered into a space where she confronted her peculiar innocence allowing herself to be strong and accepting contemporarily. This personal journey of searching presented an endless possibility of the performer’s ancestry, history and lived experience. Allowing herself to experience her journey led to an authentic vulnerability.
Zimbabwean Kresiah Mukwazhi’s piece ‘Take Me to Osibisa’ used the artist’s body as a reference to the trauma of the liberation struggle and pays tribute to lives lost. She engaged with the audience by pouring what looks like blood on their hands. This becomes a visible evidence of our collective accountability for the bloodshed and our continuous responsibility to ensure that the blood spilled will not be in vain as we struggle with the system.
‘Source’ by Regina Magdalena Sebald a German artist involved 6 women originating from 5 continent styled with chords which physically connect them and also link their personal stories and lived experiences. This piece invites the audience to imagine new ways of interacting with the world. Using women as an entry point, the piece reflects on the primary source of humanity. The piece connects the physical and emotional ethos of the performers and celebrates diversity.
In all these, what is remarkable is the cross-current between performance and politics. The various artists created their works as a response to explicit political content; dealing with matters like human rights, environmental issues, identity, culture, race, diversity, and spirituality. This makes the performances reject the cliché narrative of entertainment and aesthetics. The eighth edition of CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival witnessed performance artist both local and international pushing the frontier of performance, claiming spaces and remixing ideas and new possibilities.
Written by Kwame Boafo
Images: Abdul Arafat, OBE Images and Josephine Kuuire
Read our recap post on The LABs here