Over the weekend, the roads leading to Accra Central, particularly Jamestown, in Ghana, were designed with heavy vehicular traffic, and about 5 minutes to my destination, my Uber driver advised that I drop off and walk the rest of the journey because it would be longer than 5 minutes in traffic.
Well, he wasn’t wrong. I dropped off, utilized my legs, and still got to my destination while he was still stuck in traffic.
As I neared the streets of British Accra, the Absa Bank office to my right and Holy Trinity Cathedral to my left, hawkers plied their trade on the blocked street and when I lifted my head I was welcomed with “Chalewote Festival 2022, Stargate to Africa”.
A makeshift box sat in the middle of the road, later I would see some art pieces in it on my way out. To my left, food vendor after food vendor plied my side with the various aromas. I almost bought that Kenkey (meal of the Ga people in Accra Ghana) to my right. African print dresses and artifacts were calling to me with their vendors standing by calling out to customers.
As I walked ahead, my destination being the Ussher Fort, I was met with different calibers of people, from all walks of life. There were the locals, people from the diaspora (could tell by the obvious accent and light conversations), other Africans, whites, Blacks, all manner of people interacting and basically having fun.
On reaching the Ussher Fort, it was a sight to behold. A display of some African apparel and beautiful artworks here and then a performance there.
A small crowd gathered and watched as others, in twos, partook in an audio performance about death. In a pyramid-like setup, a young man, with a sorrowful look and a red rope on his neck attached to the roof of his box, stood in silence. The other two boxes on his opposite sides were filled with participants who upon entering put the headsets available on and started listening. The crowd was curious to know as once they start listening they all have a solemn look.
Once they are out, the solemn look remains. One gentleman, who came out with a small right smile, shook his head and sighed. When asked what the performance was about, he said “death hmm…death”
One by one they all came with the now common tight smile and solemn facial expression. But it wasn’t all gloomy, right out of that ruins I was met with beautiful artwork. The sun rays had hit it perfectly and added to the beauty of the artwork. I watched many people take photos in front of it.
This was a different experience from my first Chalewote experience in 2018. I went at night for that edition, but whew! This was something. Ahead of me, a group, being led by a guide, moved from ruins to ruins as the guide took them through the fort and explained what went on there during colonization. The Ussher Fort is one of the many forts and castles in Ghana that still remain years after colonization.
Two men painted in different colors came out, a pot on one’s head as they prepared to go out to the street and display. Soon, about seven young boys, painted in ash came out too. They waited for a crowd to gather to start a performance inside, but soon they had to move to the street where their main performance would be taking place.
After an artist graciously made an art design on my hand, after persuading me I decided to move out again. The crowd I saw while entering had increased and so had the activities. Right outside the Ussher Fort, a group of youngsters had made a horseshoe, and inside, a little boy was dancing as they cheered him on. He had his face painted, a small bag draped on his waist atop the traditional straw-like skirt he wore. Two young men came to join, but of course, the children were cuter.
To my right now sat another ruin with music emanating from inside. I got curious and entered. Young people were dancing everywhere. The walls of the ruins were decorated with beautiful artworks and locals especially could be seen chit-chatting amongst themselves.
Coming out, I almost screamed as I came face to face with a man in a skeletal costume. Took two seconds to realize it was a street art festival and I was calm. He beckoned for me to come, but the screaming of one woman got all of us to turn our heads. She was scared of him. He turned to her and started moving towards her, but she was not having it. Eventually, two local ladies eventually got close to the masquerade, hugged him and shared some laughter to ease up the tension.
Away from them, another horseshoe, but this time it wasn’t people dancing, but a young man juggling and spinning two bowls and a football. With the bowls on either of his hands and the football between his feet, he began juggling and once done began beckoning people from the crowd to have a try.
During my first Chalewote experience four years ago, I went at night and met the party. I walked through a long queue just to get to a settling point. That day, I faced both vehicular and human traffic. There wasn’t much art to see that day, but there was good music playing, still a lot of food around, and a huge crowd hence, the human traffic.
Fast forward to 2022, whew! Amazing experience. Missed the musical performances that start in the evening, but the street art and display of the various cultures in terms of apparel especially made up for it.
I cannot vouch for the night experience of Chalewote 2022, but the day experience was everything and more! Beautiful art pieces, amazing performances, and the mini-performances on the street at every point in time gave true meaning to the festival being a street one.
I wish I could have gone further ahead on the street, but as I turned to leave, I made a stop at the Osekan Resort Junction, where a park was located and had been set for the performance at night, a silent reminder of the party I would be missing, but the art made up for it.
As I exited the street, I met another skeletal masquerade, this time with no fear, but laughter as someone grew scared.
All in all, Chalewote Festival 2022 was a beautiful experience. Organizers have upped their game since 2018.
On your festivals to attend next year, maybe, put in the Chalewote Festival in Accra, Ghana. You won’t be disappointed. Different cultures, beautiful people, a lot of food, beautiful art pieces and the general love and light ambiance that will last till nighttime.
As to whether to go during the day or at night? Well, having experienced the two, I can say for a fact that, whichever one you choose, you would not regret it.
Some photos from the event: