Accra’s James Town district known as “the original port of city leading to the development of Ghana as a nation”opened its streets from August 23-24, 2014 for public engagement in art and cultural festivities. Chale Wote Street Art Festival took over James Town rearranging the streets into dynamic exhibition rooms, giving artists space to express and amplify their creative voices.
The festival, also known as Chale Wote, is an annual event first held in 2011, created and organized by ACCRA DOT ALT –a cultural network in Accra creating possibilities for exchanges between Ghanaian and international artists. The meaning of Chale Wote is “Man let’s Go” in the Ga language, according to the organizers who further explain that, “the Ga people are the custodians of Accra”.
The festival, in a revolutionary move creates the possibility of bringing art into the community. Where art in Ghana for decades wasn’t very accessible to the everyday man as it was rooted in “elite circles“, Chale Wote is changing the custom. “It was mainly due to Ghana’s colonial history, where certain things in society where preserved by the people with influence and status”, the organizers said, however, “Chale Wote demystified all of that by taking art into the community, and more or less, forcing an interaction that wasn’t there before.”
Chale Wote turns into a space where creative Ghanaians are participating in building the community and its cultural aesthetic in a way that represents (new) cultural expressions of the young generation. And by transforming the streets into a free open art gallery, they are prospecting for interface between culture, art and the public.
Impressively, the festival does not only open the world of art to the public but, from inception, it is geared to promote Ghana’s culture and explore its cultural history through art. Over the years, both local and international artists participating in the festival have created contemporary representations and given new meaning to Ghanaian myths, legends, folklore, as they offer the youth room to re-imagine Ghana’s ancient stories.
What’s more, the festival’s location bears extensive cultural meaning. It is said that Accra’s deepest history lies in James Town, holding a significant part of the country’s colonial history, as well as cultural and knowledge systems of the Ga people. “From the slave forts, along the coast to the palaces of clan royals, the community already has a thriving cultural scene through the indigenous festivals. What Chale Wote has done is make these things more visible by creating major tourist traffic and economic opportunities, through merchandising and walking tours. Over the years, a lot more artists are doing projects within that space as it has become an artist hub of sorts,” the organizers said.
Yearly, a call for proposals is announced online for local and international artists interested in participating. You can learn more about the festival and how to participate here.