AFROCHELLA ME MORIES
Reflecting on a trip to the Afrochella festival in Accra a few years back has got bestselling cookbook author MOGAU SESHOENE wondering what travel will be like in a post-pandemic world.
Finally 2021 is winding down. I can almost smell the festive season. It’s been a long year – the longest of our generation, it feels like, mostly because the past 24 months have seemingly rolled into one continuous and uncertain year. I still struggle with the date, often writing 2020 instead of 2021…
With the relief of the year’s end comes the reckoning with the trauma and fatigue of everything we lost in the fires of seemingly endless lockdowns. Never have I looked forward more to taking time off for a muchneeded nap, over a couple of days. And yes, this time I will keep my laptop off. I’m still reeling from the exhaustion of having the office as a permanent feature of home, with which comes the joy of working in your PJs, but also the discomfort of clients asking for the odd “favour” at the oddest hours. Because the home office is never closed, right?
As we navigate this new normal in the context of time off, I’m also wondering what travel and holidaying will look like now. Which is why I’m reminiscing about my last pre-Covid holiday – a trip I took with two of my friends to Accra, Ghana – and wondering what it would be like if we went again this year. We attended the Afrochella festival (think Coachella, but African). It was such a vibe: seven days of music, beautiful people in beautiful costumes, and delicious food in the most perfect weather on the sandy beaches of Accra.
Afrochella is music, art, culture, food, fashion. It’s a food lover’s dream, with vendors selling jerk chicken, spicy egusi soup and jollof (West Africa’s classic rice dish), as well as plantains, desserts made using naturally sweet tigernut flour, and refreshing, freshly squeezed juices. Inside the stadium that was the main venue, interactive exhibitions allowed festivalgoers to admire African and African-inspired artworks, and pose for pictures in one of the many photobooths.
And the clothes… The fashion was unlike anything I had ever seen. More than just African prints such as kente and shweshwe, there was a kaleidoscope of futuristic African regalia and traditional-inspired designs that paid homage to heritage. Everything was big and bold. There were crop tops and shorts and everything in between – and no matter the style, you could tell these looks had been well thought out, complete with face paint. It was beautiful to witness.
Being in Accra, a safe-to-walk-at-night city, is a genuine treat for any South African, and we had a jam-packed itinerary beyond the festival that included lots of fun, touristy things. We did culture and history tours to see the slave castle and famous “door of no return”; we visited the markets, where we shopped for interesting souvenirs and fabulous fabrics; we explored the food culture in depth at local eateries. It was an incredible time of vibrant colours and electrifying, bold sounds that will always remind me of Ghana – the kind of experience I hope my friends and I will be able to have again soon.