First official day of the Chale Wote festival. Nao and Valentina went to fetch the artist and press badges in the morning at Brazil House – the festival headquarters, from which a procession of artists will take off this afternoon to launch the festival. The curators were finishing setting up art works along the walls, since as from today the building will hold the Shika Shika Art Fair. We have stocked all of our bamboo in Ussher Fort, which neighbours Old Kingsway, the space where we will be working. Badges and bamboo in hand, we were ready for our first day of work.
10am. We held our first group meeting in Old Kingsway, sitting on our bamboo, to discuss how to proceed this week and what kind of structure we were most interested in building in this space. Hedi and Aziz both voiced wanting to build something for the children to enjoy, like constructing a playground, as a way to launch our presence in the space, and to get people to know us and understand the kind of design work we do. Nao yesterday had proposed the idea of building goal posts as a first construction exercise, since we noticed in the past days that Old Kingsway is already used as a football pitch by children and teenagers. After some thought though the team divided into three groups of two and each set out to build a bench or a chair for this space. All were inspired by chairs and benches we had seen in the past days in Accra, such as the chief’s stool, which Mohamed and Aziz attempted replicating in their own way, or a chair we saw at yesterday’s restaurant (an open doors boxing club that also sells fried chicken and pizza) that was made up of two pieces of wood fixed into each other, which Lotfi and Hedi were inspired by. The children who were hanging around Old Kingsway soon became interested by what the different teams were doing, and participated in holding down bamboos while they were being sowed, or in tightening cable ties. At the end of the morning session the boys handed over their creations to the children for them to try sitting on, and asked them whether they felt the benches were stable or comfortable enough, and whether they wanted to take them apart and embark on new creations themselves.
For lunch we went to Backpass, the restaurant just in front of our hotel, where Valentina and Nii, the festival volunteer who is helping us, negotiated a good discount with the lovely manager, Madame Nana. While waiting for the good we went through our thoughts on starting our working week on the scale of furniture, which is something the Warcha team are all very used to, since in the Hafsia a lot of our work has been based on creating furniture for the public space or for indoor commissions, like the Maison de l’Image project. We agreed that it was a good starting point, but felt that the material we were working with, the bamboos, required bigger and perhaps more architectural structures to be built. The bamboos are 4m tall, and are strong, they can hold a shape well. We resolved to move onto making larger structural profiles tomorrow, while in the afternoon we focused on trying to negotiate electricity access in the space and testing possibilities with the LED lights.
First though we headed to Brazil House for the opening of the festival. Ga priestesses and men dressed in all white clothes lead the way through James Town. Hedi was the only one amongst us who had white trousers, shoes and t-shirt, he look perfect, selfie-ready, while the rest of us did our best to dress in light clothes. The procession was set off by a group of traditional dancers singing and dancing to live music just in front of Brazil House, who then followed the procession, gave it rhythm and momentum. The group stopped every now and again for rituals, but there were too many people for us to see what was happening. On our way several people said hello to Aziz – everyone remembers his name – and Hedi got to say hello to the hairdressers who did his braids a couple of nights ago. We took off at around 5:30pm to continue our work in Old Kingsway, leaving festival participants and artists to enjoy the Sika Sika Art Fair which we had managed to check out in the morning.
The work in the afternoon and evening was a bit bumpy, with different men showing up in Old Kingsway at various points and claiming sovereignty over it, and therefore explanation of our presence and payment in exchange for allowing it. Kwaku, the owner of the sofa workshop just behind Old Kingsway with whom we had already spoken about working here, wasn’t there to let them know of the agreement that we had come to. Each time a new person came to question our presence we therefore had to interrupt our work and try to appease them. There also seemed to be no way around paying for the electricity to start testing our LEDs, so Ben gave the man 10 cedis, for which Kwaku scolded him when he returned and heard about our misadventures. Once the electricity was secured though we still couldn’t get the LEDs to work, and there were too many people in the space for us to be able to work properly, too many distractions and movement to focus. We left slightly demoralised. Yusif will call his dad, who is an electrician, tomorrow to try and figure out what the issue with the LEDs might be.
Dinner in hipster neighbourhood Osu, Chez Clarisse, for a tilapia Ivorian style and avocado salad for Valentina and Dagna, pizza at the boxing club for everyone else.