Unpacking the city of Accra requires stealth; a skill to drift unnoticed between the negative space around the dynamic people and intriguing happenings without tampering with its vibrant fabric and distinct zest. Yet to come into the uniqueness of Ghana’s capital city and enjoy it, one requires nuanced and sincere insights. Accra is not lacking in interesting phenomena or experiences, so where does one start with some much all around?
Austrian filmmaker Sandra Krampelhuber and her colleagues Andrea Verena Strasser’s curiosity and urge to dance with Accra leads them to the very nerve endings of the city in the company of people directly in touch with the different and dynamic energies Accra exudes in her documentary film, Accra Power.
100% Dakar was were Krampelhuber’s romantic relationship with West African cities and their creative sides began. By speaking to photographers, filmmakers, fine artist, musicians and designers in Dakar, Senegal, she sought to broaden her understanding of the creative scene, unearthing their motivations, aspirations, and distinct practices. Accra Power follows in this thread but proceeds with much more direction and focus. Here, the two directors are concerned with the issues of power in whatever form or shape it takes in Accra.
Anyone who has been in and around Ghana over the past few years would have noticed its omnipresent soundtrack; the mind-numbing reverberating chorus of hums from power plants and generators in the company of other pleasantly displeasing noise from construction sites, traffic jams, churches, markets, et al. Ghana’s crippling power crisis has been a source of worry and distress given the many facets of our lives that rely on the irregular, inadequate and expensive electricity supply. Accra Power uses the perspectives of eight matchless and creative characters to explicate what is means to be powerful or powerless in this context. Life does not stop when the lights go off. The film presents the word “power” to a fashion focused DJ, an eccentric and iconic musician, a divergent wordsmith, a gospel scientist, an ambitious female boxer, an exuberant and expressive dancer and a disruptive performance and fine artist. Their responses reflect the broadest senses of power and reveal stunning insights.
Strasser and Krampelhuber’s lens starts of as a screen. The film employs a pseudo fly on the wall perspective, as the filmmaker is alien to the subjects of her film. It uses interviews to slowly piece together this puzzling city, which, like any other city, is unlike any other city. However, Accra Power does not merely ask questions; rather it observes Steloo, Wanlov The Kubolor, Poetra Asantewaa, Abigail Quartey, Mary Yaa Konadu, Hadrassah Asare, Edward Ohemeng Oware and Serge Attukwei Clottey doing the things they love, detecting how they go about empowering themselves . Combined with stark scenes highlighting the disparities between the different parts of the cities, the viewer comes to realise a near complete picture of Accra and understand why the issues of power is such a crucial topic of ceaseless discussion.
The film portrays the power of African ingenuity. One of the connecting threads in the individual’s stories of all the subjects of the documentary is how they continue creating in spite of the crippling challenges they face. Rather than being discouraged, each of them find a way to be charged and redefine the boundaries of power to them. One would have expected that the directors would have chosen to speak to politicians or religious leaders who exercise a choke hold on the social and economic power in Accra. However, these artist who look within for their own power, end up being the most polarizing and influential as their intentions are not driven by anything outside the essence of their work, which is to engineer better lives for themselves and they communities whilst entertaining .
The lens then evolves into a mirror by which denizens of Accra can examine their society candidly after being exposed to these unique and relativity unknown perspectives. Outside politics, conversations on power barely occur. There is a lot to gain by examining and appreciating the power we individually possess and find ways to harness it positively. For foreigners, the film serves as a different entry point, distinct from tourist guides and advertisements. It allows you to see a side of Accra that may not be easily accessible but is relevant in comprehending the nuances of life in Accra.
Accra Power succeeds in presenting a well-focused and balanced look at the dynamics of power in the city revealing nexuses that you would not have imagined. However, it is no way comprehensive. The film does not attempt to tell it all but rather highlight some perspectives that are muted. All the over major factors such as politics, economics and religions are silent in the background of the film, as the voices of the artists are amplified.
Accra Power was recently screened at the Chale Wote 2016 film LABs, one of the top picks from the event.
Accra Power (2016)
Directors : Sandra Krampelhuber and Andrea Verena Strasser.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/161636793″>ACCRA POWER Trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/sandrakrampelhuber”>Sandra Krampelhuber</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Written by Hakeem Adam
Photo Credits: Stills from film.