Catch-up

International Event Chale Wote Street Arts Festival

By Tsadenna G. Assefa, September 01, 2019

When August approaches, the streets of Accra prepare to welcome the thousands of people that will flood the streets on their pilgrimage to the street art mecca: Chale Wote. The name Chale Wote, not coincidentally, means friend lets go in Ga, one of the major languages in Ghana and the local language of Accra. It is also synonymous with flipflops, as they are anyone’s friend in the tropical weather the locals enjoy. But the name Chale Wote has, of recent, also become synonymous with artistic rebellion and infinite production of a variety of art forms. It is currently the largest alternative art festival our continent has to offer.

Chale Wote is an annual festival that takes place in the month of August. Dubbed “a street style paradise” by Vogue magazine, it was first launched in 2011 by Accra dot alt with support from other cultural vehicles. It started as a one-day festival and it has now grown to 11 days this year. What makes Chale Wote special is its ability to bring art of all forms to the streets of Accra in a Ghanaian style that cannot be reproduced anywhere else.   

This year’s edition took place between the 14th and the 25th of August under the theme ‘Pidgin Imaginarium’. Pidgin is a cultural phenomenon and a language formed by people of different languages to enable them to speak to each other. It is a common form of communication of people in Ghana and west Africa because of the diverse nature of the region. According to the organizers, pidgin is “… a time capsule, a time traveling memory repository and a metaphysical extension of many other lifeworld’s of creation and exchange”, the year’s main aim is to celebrate diversity by encouraging joint projects that revolve around the conceptual intersection of artistic thought and African mythology.

Chale Wote has become a platform for many emerging and well-known artists from across the world to showcase their unique talents and share their stories. Since its launch, Chale Wote has been introducing revolutionary art that embodies many societal issues and concepts. It has become the stage where artists can share their opinions on current issues through limitless creative media.

Among the many programs that make Chale Wote a force to be reckoned with are interactive art, photography, fashion, extreme sports, art fairs and more. This year, it featured an open gallery that brought together 7 Ghanaian cultural agencies to bring forth a vibrant one of a kind experiences for the art connoisseur and the general public alike. The open gallery includes Africa by Design platform that allows 31 designers from 8 African countries (Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal) to showcase their innovative designs of eclectic ranges.

It also includes walking tours of the historical James town, that has played a major role in the development of street arts in the capital and has a significant contribution to the social and economic status of Accra dwellers. It is also scenic in that it has the popular lighthouse that is considered as one of the major landmarks of Accra.

Besides the open gallery, it also features film labs screening works hailing from different parts of the African continent and attempts to shed light at issues of femininity, blackness, and identity. Other features of the festival include processions and performances that attempt to impact understanding around folklore and human relationship with the environment.

With over forty thousand people in attendance, the colorful festivities mark the significance of Ghana in the continent as the first African country to gain independence and by coinciding with “the year of return” that celebrates 400 years of resilience throughout the 400 years of slavery and encourages African diaspora to return. Chale Wote is a testament to the power of independent cultural initiative that draws people out for entertainment, forms a common identity for the locals and gives platform for cultural exchange.