Ghana’s Chale Wote Street Art Festival promises a one-of-a-kind sensory experience

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  • Published on August 9, 2022
  • Last Updated March 10, 2023
  • In Events

The festival, which runs from August 12 to 21, reveals deep themes of history, culture and imagination beneath the stunning sights and sounds.

A carnivalesque festival for the senses begins this week as the Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Accra, Ghana kicks off on August 12. In the streets, participants may see men painted blue carrying standing atop their equally cerulean steel barrel drums and braided strands of colored raffia hanging down from the awnings. Or possibly men in only grass skirts shaking their hips to the playing of nearby brass bands and groups of dancers in bright blood-red ensembles with matching beads. Not to mention vibrantly colored murals, recycled materials installations, performers walking around with painted gold hands carrying gold boxes with iridescent head wraps, players improvising in costumes made of wire, circuitry and other recycled materials and giant floats carried on shoulders by dancers who shuffle even under their weight.

The festival offers a dizzying array of colors, rhythms, textures and costumes for the cursory viewer, while under the surface, deep themes of history, culture and imagination are being explored at every turn.

Found-driftwood sculptor Toloku Martin challenges his audience to reimagine how we interact with the dead through our own cultural lenses. Holistic therapist Maggie Sade invites us to contend with the legacy of pain and place in relation to slavery, as she uses nature and its healing properties to forge new connections and hold space for old feelings in places like Fort Ussher, the former slave port and festival home. The Adjarra Egungun & Zangbetor troupe from Benin brings cowry-shell costumes and masked ritual dances to the streets, performing spiritually potent dances with a traditional ancestral reverence. Raphael Adjetey Mayne, whose paintings meet at the intersection of emotionally striking and intimately casual, will display some of his most celebrated pieces at the festival. While these offerings hardly begin to scratch the surface of what will be on tap in the streets of Accra starting Friday, the best way to find out more is simply to arrive.

This story was created by Detour, a journalism brand focused on the best stories in Black travel, in partnership with McClatchy’s The Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald. Detour’s approach to travel and storytelling seeks to tell previously under-reported or ignored narratives by shifting away from the customary routes framed in Eurocentrism. The detour team is made up of an A-list of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers, illustrators and filmmakers.

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