Justyna Dziabaszewska was one of the many international artists at the just ended Chale Wote Street Arts Festival held in Jamestown, a suburb of Accra. The 7th edition of the festival, just like the previous ones, was attended by more than thirty (30) international artists who exhibited different forms of art display. Miss Justyna who is twenty four (24) and pursuing a master degree programme in Arts at the University of Fine Arts in Poznan, awed locals while she did her painting and many who attended the festival were astonished by her work. Normally, mirror paintings on walls had only two figures at most but Justyna’s had more than forty characters.
According to Justyna, she was working on some old European graphics before she came to Accra. “I was analyzing the representation of African-European culture, how the two met and coexist and I wanted to retell this story. Retell the story void of any signs of imperial thinking, supremacy or judgment but in the best way with pure interchange of experiences, learning from each other in a friendly and trustful way” she said. According to Justyna, she felt at home in Ghana and the people were very welcoming. “I wanted to attend an international Art Festival and Chale Wote appeared in the results when I searched on Google. I had never been to Africa before and only knew about Ghana’s flag and national football team from the World Cup. I took some time to read about Ghana (colonial and current days)” she added.
Chale Wote is not the first Art Festival she has been to but presented a different challenge since it was the first time she had to do a painting on such a large space or wall. “Normally, I work on a paper and create small-format detailed etchings” she said with a smile. “I have done a few paintings before but not this big and so complex” she added. The painting, which took a day to develop on paper, was completed in four (4) days on the wall. Justyna spent a few hours in Jamestown a day after her arrival in Accra, which was the main day of the Homowo festival celebration of the people of Gamashie (Jamestown traditional capital Gamashie).
During the celebration, she went round the town, interacted with the locals and some tradition leaders, observed the people and environment and also learnt some history. “I saw old colonial houses, kids walking and playing in the streets, young boys practicing boxing in the corners and training gyms, wild dogs sharing meals and old ladies sitting by houses” she said. “All these pictures were new and kind of intriguing to me. It was clear to me that being a part of the celebration gave me an opportunity to get a little bit more familiar with Jamestown than if I was a normal tourist” she added with a big smile.
When she went back to her hotel room to think of her project and develop it on paper, it was not much of a difficulty to conclude on the elements that will be present in her imaginary community. Soon, she was able to conclude on what to project and how. “I decided to present an all-inclusive (African and European) imaginary community where there are young and old African and European mean and women doing things together” she said. Again, she added that, the characters in her painting are seen playing music together, dancing, preparing meals, drinking ‘palm wine’, playing soccer, fishing, reading, among other activities. A glance at the painting reveals a European figure (man) hugged from behind by a young girl. He seems amazed at the cordial coexistence of the different cultures in one community. “Like I said early on, I want to retell the story of how Europeans and Africans could live in peace and harmony” said Justyna.
African Post Magazine