Events curated by ACCRA [dot] ALT [sic] have proved popular with those interested in the arts. This multi-disciplinary collective began in 2010 as a “response to state neglect and lack of cultural production infrastructure” and has been instrumental in bringing together the city’s artistic talent. Every August its Chale Wote festival draws 10,000 people to Jamestown, a historic fishing village dotted with dilapidated colonial architecture. 200 artists interpreted the Spirit Robot theme in 2016 through performances, graffiti murals and photo exhibitions. The crew brought the streets to a standstill with block parties, fashion shows and art installations.
The collective’s base at Brazil House in Jamestown has become a home for creatives to network and collaborate. “Accra is on its way to becoming the cultural hub of west Africa,” says co-founder Mantse Aryeequaye. “Dozens of artists are creating projects that are affecting the economies of large communities. And as Accra becomes a destination for art collectors, more artists are able to live off their work as they build this new creative economy.”
External funding is hard to secure and studio rents are expensive, so artists are adopting public spaces as an alternative outlet.
Ghanaian artists keep producing substantially and the few exhibition spaces –Nubuke Foundation, Gallery 1957, The Loom, Artists Alliance – and street art festivals could build further with ANO. Since 2012, ANO has collaborated with Serge Attukwei, Zohra Opoku, James Barnor and many other remarkable creatives, and is in residency with theater artist Elizabeth Sutherland and illustrator Bright Ackwerh. Accra is excited to have such a cultural project and display space, and Oforiatta-Ayim confidently asserts that "ANO is ready to take it nationwide and engage with a wider audience."
Nubuke Foundation in Accra, Ghana
David Woode, a UK news reporter points out that in the early 1960s the post-independence arts scene thrived under prime minister Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s government when budding architects and artists were given grants to train and support their output. Artists such as El Anatsui, Kofi Setordji and photographers James Barnor and Felicia Abban (Ghana’s first female professional photographer) helped lay the groundwork for the country’s fertile contemporary arts scene. However, by 1966, up-and-coming artists were struggling. A weak currency and fall in the price of cocoa, the chief agricultural export in Ghana, led to Nkrumah being ousted. This move triggered a cycle of military coups and economic unrest. Ghana has since stabilized and a generation of young artists are now publicizing their work Instagram, Etsy and SoundCloud.
Writer Moshood Balogun and rapper Khalfani at an ACCRA[dot]ALT discussion session.
Ghanaian visual artists Zohra Opoku and “Afrogallonism” creator Serge Attukwei Clottey are crafting new narratives around west African traditions, gender and identity through textiles and photography. Gallery 1957, is located in Accra’s Kempinski Hotel, the Nubuke Foundation is located in East Legon, a leafy neighbourhood just south of the University of Ghana, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, is located on the southern suburb of Cantonments, curates exhibitions and hosts workshops and panel discussions.
Gallery 1957, Accra, Ghana
At the Nubuke Foundation, performance artists Elisabeth Efua Sutherland and Emilia Pinamang Asiedu collaborate with professionals and passionate amateurs who train outside of their nine-to-five jobs. The pair started the Accra Theatre Workshop in summer 2013 as a place to create experimental work.
Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, DJ Steloo and Yaw P at the 2015 Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Jamestown, Ghana
Sutherland reflects on her first visit to her parents’ homeland when she was four-years-old. Her earliest memories of childhood consist of playing by the banana trees outside the family home and chasing goats and chickens. She remembers huge family parties soundtracked by energetic highlife music and the tables weighed down under the weight of jollof rice and fried fish. Family members "dressed in their Kente finery would playfully mock our broken, British-inflected Fante." Sutherland and her family continued to visit Ghana until she was in her teens; her last visit was in 2002 when she was 15 years-old. Sutherland says that Ghana retains the smells and sounds she remembers from her childhood but Accra has changed. As tourist numbers increase, foreign developers have moved in and updated former shabby suburbs "I took a walk through Osu, a lively neighbourhood in downtown Accra. It’s teeming with new shops, sports bars and plush lounges. Lebanese, Italian and Chinese restaurants have been opened to cater for expats and visitors. But to counter this, the art crowd is carving out an alternative scene."
Near the new ANO space is Elle Lokko, a women’s concept fashion store that stocks African designers. Roadside traders sell peeled oranges, peanuts and smoked plantain chunks wrapped in newspaper as cars speed by draped in the red, white and blue flag of the New Patriotic Party, which swept to power on 7 December. Vendors preside over large pots of piping hot soup and banku (corn and cassava dough) and a stew called palaver sauce (cocoyam leaves fried in palm oil with crushed pumpkin seeds, garlic, onions, tomatoes and pepper).
Accra (Tema), Silversea
Spirit Robot procession at the Chale Wote Street Art Festival.