El Warcha fi telvsa! TV time for Ben and Mohammed, who woke up at 6:00am, ready to head to the Citi TV headquarters, only to find once we got there that we would be on-air at 9:30am. Valentina went to fetch breakfast – egg and bread and Nescafé poured into transparent sachets for takeaway purposes – as Nao filmed the guys getting their make-up done for the big screen. We were interviewed as part of a program called “Breakfast Daily” together with another artist, Lesley Asare, who was also participating in Chale Wote, and Josh, one of the curators of the festival. Ben’s shoes had been destroyed by the week’s work sessions, so he wore his chale wote (meaning flip flops/shleka) to the Chale Wote TV interview (for the record, apart from flip flops, chale wote also means “hey man, let’s go!”). Sitting on a colourful couch, ignoring the bustle going on beyond the reach of cameras and microphones (who would have guessed that a TV set could be so busy and noisy), the presenter asked both Lesley and the Warcha boys about their respective projects for the festival and their work more generally. Lesley will be performing in Ussher Fort on Saturday afternoon. She is a UK based artist, but her grandma is Ga, and so for the festival she will be channelling her grandma’s stories to create a painting through movement. To close the interview, the presenter asked Ben and Mohammed what the most surprising thing about their experience in Ghana had been:
“Now both of you, is this your first time in West Africa? What are some shocking things you discovered, aside the food, everybody says the food.”
“I guess we’ve been surprised by the energy. We’ve been in James Town for over a week now and there’s so much energy, it’s amazing. And, well, we get woken up quite early, but at the same time it feels really alive and powerful.”
“Now you” – she said turning to Mohammed, who had been a bit shy, but the presenter wasn’t going to let him off the hook – “What made you come here to begin with?”
“I was interested in the festival, it’s my first time outside Tunisia, and Ben”
The boys made us proud.
Back in Old Kingsway, back to work. We first moved the structures towards one corner of the space and positioned them in a semi-circle: their final placement for the festival weekend. The effect we were going for was the chill-out zone that we had talked about with Nii yesterday, creating a more intimate space. Seen the amount of people who were already starting to gather in the streets, we felt that this was the best solution for our structure to integrate with the other activities that will be going on in Old Kingsway, and with the over-crowdedness that was sure to come. The semi-circle also allowed for the LED lights to be suspended close to one another in the middle, a similar effect to the circle position we had tried before, which will look even better in the evening with the lights on. The rest of the morning was spent making and hanging the bamboo casings for the LED lights to be suspended in. As we were starting the cabling, a boxing match broke out in Old Kingsway. We had been focused on work so hadn’t seen it coming, but suddenly a big number of people had assembled in the round to watch two young boys with boxing gloves compete. Parents and adults were taking pictures on their phones, as the boys’ friends cheered them on. We took our lunch break quite late, at 3pm, feeling like we were almost there.
When we returned to the space after lunch, the festival atmosphere was definitely starting to kick in. On the sidewalk just outside the entrance to Old Kingsway, where Kwaku usually lines up a couple of the sofas he has just finished making for passers-by to admire and potentially purchase, several food stalls were already doing good business. The streets were a lot more crowded, with “brofonio hipsters” peering into the space to see what we were up to, and the team getting regularly interrupted in the electrical work by people posing on our installation and asking them to join in the pictures. “I’m so tired of the photos”, sighs Hedi, who, perhaps because of his newly braided hair, gets asked to appear in selfies more frequently than the other guys. By 6pm, when the drizzle that had been accompanying our work for most of the day took a break, the place was packed with people, and it was becoming more and more difficult to finish the cabling. Valentina and Wilson pulled apart the benches that had been made the previous day to be able to re-use the black rope, which was running out. The top bamboos of our structures had been gradually lowering as the rope that held them up got wet with rain, making the bamboo cases with the LED lights dangle a bit too close to people’s heads. The team moved metal scaffolding next to each structure to tighten the ropes and hoist the bamboos up again – a task made dangerously shaky by children doing acrobatics on the bases of the scaffolding while the boys were standing on them to reach the top bamboos. A new self-appointed sovereign came to us during these operations to request payment for using what he claimed was his scaffolding. By now though we had become skilled in dealing with these “sovereigns”: we just called a more powerful man in to deal with the situation. At the end of the hoisting, Yusif captured our exhausted spirits when, sitting on the bench of one of the structures, staring blankly ahead while several kids were jumping up and down around him, he sardonically said: “life is horrible”. But eventually we made it. By 9pm the structures were all still standing despite lots of people leaning and sitting on them, the bamboos with the LEDs were still hanging high above the crowd, and the lights were all on. It looked and felt magical.
To celebrate we went back to the stand near Brazil House we had gone to on Day 2, at the very beginning of this adventure, to relax with beers and skewers. We took down the names of the songs whose tunes had by now become an essential part of our Ghana experience: the CCTV song by King Promise and Sarkodie, Shatte Wale’s song “I’m a bad goat, brabrabrabra” (it disappointingly doesn’t actually say that, the song is called StarBoy), Ebony’s Maame Ha3, Sponsor, Market Song, Mr Eazi Pour me watah. Dagna, Valentina and Faidal (who regularly comes to see how our work is proceeding) then went to check out the Masquerade Ball organised by Chale Wote – we’ve sadly been missing out on most events in order to finish the installation. The party was already over when they got to the National Theatre though, so instead they went bar-hopping in Osu, and ended up eating poisoned noodles in Oxford Street at 2am.