Friend, Let’s Go

Atie Eric

It was on one of those days – sitting behind my work desk, staring intently at the computer screen, sound of the standing fan wheezing left to right and left again, in a room that smells of fresh paint that makes my eyes water – that I found it. The picture, an image of mutilated white ‘bathroom slippers’ suspended in the air on both ends by strings of iron against a blue pole with the words ‘CHALE WOTE’ written boldly in black paint, was – and continues to be – for me striking in its ruggedness, its beauty, its art; a first encounter with the Chale Wote festival

That was in 2016.

Two years after, I am having my very first taste of Ghanaian Jollof, navigating the streets of Accra and registering my attendance at each of the festival’s program.

In August 2019 the festival is in its ninth edition, and I am marking my second year in attendance. I am walking down the now familiar but crowded street of Jamestown – this district that holds still the remnants of Accra’s colonial past – maneuvering through the throng of bodies that have come from far and wide to celebrate the beauty and excellence of African art.

It is the art that pulls me into the festivities this time around; from the statics of textures and colors my eyes dart from left to right, chatting up old and new acquaintances along the way, eager to make it to the next exhibition, the next mural or the next installation.

With the festival entering into its ninth year, the city of Accra opens once again to receive the art creators and enthusiasts; the streets of Jamestown monumental in its symbolism, bearing witness to the soles of thousands, locals and foreigners alike. Themed Pidgin Imaginarium, the festival which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in West Africa, and Ghana’s Year of the Return explore Pidgin as a philosophical tool of Africans and their survival through time and space. Its walls are brought to life with murals and installations, bursting with performances of songs and chants and dance; a gallery of art that is black and conscious and tells of a journey that has come full circle.

It feels spiritual, this conglomeration of time and space and people are all woven into a universal bind. It is the same feeling that had found me staring at the image of white bathroom slippers with black paint years back – ‘FRIEND, LET’S GO,’ it had said to me. The same feeling that followed me on a bus traveling through the coast of West Africa and carried me through my first ever personal experience of the festival.

And as I continue on my journey to Jamestown Cafe, before I get submerged in the beautifully intense installation that is Pierre-Christophe Gam’s The Upright Man, I feel at this moment that I am just where I ought to be.

Atie Eric is a Nigerian writer and photographer.