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Black Art Street Festival and Community Revitalization in Tema

Glenn Samuel Semakor, a fashion model icon poses as BASEFEST celebrant

Tema as a cultural and Industrial Hub

Tema is home to Ghana’s largest sea port and biggest Hiplife icons. The multi-cultural and economic nature of the city has positioned Tema as a hotspot for producing artists and creative entrepreneurs. Popular Ghanaian artistes like Sarkodie, Kwaw Kese, Yaa Pono, Kwesi Arthur and R2Bees grew up in Tema.

Growing up in Tema during the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a period of fun-filled events and exciting street festivals. Adom Fm Street Carnival, the most popular annual event, drew large crowds to their star-studded performances to the delight of many. However, from 2010-2013 the enthusiasm of Street Festival Culture in Tema gradually began to decline.

The Creative Vision of Black Art Street Festival

Artists participating in BASFEST

With a resurgence of street art festivals in Ghana, public art has grown in popularity in Accra over the last decade. In more recent times, street art festivals act as platforms to uncover new artists, exchange creative ideas, market products and foster creative collaborations among artists. A renewed interest in street art culture is reawakening Tema’s past glories.

In community four, a team of young dynamic creative entrepreneurs are sharing creative narratives, attempting to revitalize communities and encouraging renewed interests within the creative arts. Bernard Brown (Festival Founder) and his team members, Abigail Naa Ameley Quaye, Bright Daniel Doe and Bernard Mends, work with volunteers across the city of Tema to attempt to revive its creative spirit.

Initiated in 2014, the Black Art Street Festival (BASFEST hereafter) is an integrated art festival aimed at promoting new cultural partnerships, stoking creative energies, devising creative strategies and artistic interventions as a response to social and cultural challenges. BASFEST was inspired by the desire to dispel the notion that the arts especially visual and performing arts is “reserved” for people who failed to pursue “higher courses” in school.

The organizers saw the need to provide a convergence platform for creatives and creative entrepreneurs to engage and share knowledge. BASFEST equally recognizes the importance of creating alternative platforms for contemporary art festivals that merges art, music, indigenous culture and tradition.

BASFEST’s mission is geared toward:

· Using arts as a tool for financial liberation

· Using arts as a platform for social commentary

· Promotion of recycling, greener and safer environment

· Using art as a springboard to project African cultural identity

The Economic Impact of BASFEST

The first edition of BASFEST recorded fifteen exhibitors in art, fashion and food. Out of the eight visual artists who participated there were two graffiti artists, one pencil artist and five live painters. Over 1,200 attendants visited the festival grounds during the three-day period of the street festival.

A street runway show

Over the following five years the number of participating visual artists, performing artists and exhibitors has more than doubled. Additionally, the 2019 edition of the festival had more than 3000 visitors.

Tetebotan Kali, a Graffiti Artist, at work

BASFEST consistently seeks to create equal opportunities and platforms for exhibitors to expand their market reach. These exhibitors include: product designers, fashion designers, visual artists, film makers, stylists, musicians, performance artists and other creatives Their goal is for the exhibitors to be able to maximize sales, establish important business connections to earn commissions long after the festival is over.

Social Impact and Community Driven Initiatives

BASFEST is committed to leave lasting legacies that will inspire the new generation of Africans all over the world. As part of their community development initiatives through the arts, BASFEST launched the ReadVolution Africa Campaign to encourage reading and writing skills among children in local communities.

Volunteers riding to collect books for the ReadVolution project in 2016

ReadVolution Africa is targeted at making reading and reading materials available to as many children as possible through donations. The long-term goal of this project is to put up recycled-themed libraries across communities and raise young writers across the continent of Africa.

Another project worthy of mention under the festival is the Black Apprentice Initiative where young people are assigned to understudy or learn the skills of fashion designing, art etc., from volunteers known as Black Mentors.

Through such initiatives the creative visionaries steering the future direction of BASFEST hope to strengthen creative unions with artists, social activists and youth leaders to develop communities for long lasting positive change.

By Sela Kodjo Adjei

BASFEST photos courtesy of Bernard Brown

ReadVolution photos courtesy of Mawuli Adjabeng


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