It started with an idea of reinvigorating childhood games and turned into a 3 day celebration of arts and culture and a feature of the Accra arts calendar. Anne-Marie Taylor, fellow TUUMATU Festival supporter and enthusiast interviews Lucky Lartey, Director and Founder of the TUUMATU Festival, about his vision for community arts in Ghana.
Q: Lucky, tell me about your inspiration for the TUUMATU Festival and how it’s evolved since you founded it in 2014?
Well it all began with me thinking about the music and games from my childhood growing up in Ghana and reflecting on the fact that kids in Ghana don’t get an opportunity to play these games anymore. So when I went home in 2014, and me and my community put on a 1 day Festival on the street near where my family lives in James Town and we played games, made toys out of recycled materials and there were some performances by local musicians, dancers and acrobats. It was an amazing day and the community loved it and my dance group Unik Afro loved it and everyone was like ok when can we do this again? And given there are not a lot of opportunities to showcase community arts in Ghana there was an emphasis on making it even bigger and better for 2015.
Q: So tell me about how TUMMATU Festival became a space for showcasing community arts in Ghana?
When I and a small committee of local artists from James Town (the TUUMATU Festival Committee) started planning the Festival for 2015 we wanted to keep the street festival and celebration of culture and childhood games at the centre of the festival proceedings but we also wanted to give local musicians, dancers and acrobats the chance to perform on a larger scale. A lot of people don’t know but James Town, Accra is a hub for dancers, musicians, boxers and acrobats and the area is known for exporting artists and athletes. We also wanted to look at how different artists could collaborate together and create specific works for the Festival. So we added a day either side of the street Festival, the first day is about bringing all the dancers in the area together to learn new skills in contemporary dance and to explore different ways of collaborating. Then we scheduled an evening stage performance with a program that included dancers, musicians and acrobats from all over James Town and greater Accra. The evening performance was so popular it was standing room only and we had arranged for 300 chairs in front of the stage!
The focus of the evening performance was to provide a platform for local artists who are not given opportunities or recognised by the artistic establishment in Ghana and acknowledge their contribution to the community and to the arts in Ghana. In putting the program together for 2016 we are also encouraging local artists to think about how they can use art to talk about everyday life in Ghana as well as challenging artists to create innovative works by collaborating across the community and different artistic forms. Ultimately, our vision is to create a platform for community arts in Ghana and to provide a voice for artists who are amazingly talented but don’t always have an opportunity to travel abroad or to showcase their ideas and work to their own community.
Q: I heard that you will have international artists coming and performing at the Festival this year, who is coming and why?
This year the Festival will host a number of performers from around the world and Africa including artists from Singapore, France and Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Bringing international artists and dancers to perform at the Festival is about exposing local’s to performances and artists that they would not usually get a chance to see perform as well as provide an environment of cultural exchange. In 2016 and 2017, I will be working with Singaporean based dancer and choreographer Christina Chan in Ghana, Singapore and Australia, and so TUUMATU 2016 seemed like a great place to invite Christina to come and perform and she is bringing her dance partner from France Aymeric Bichon to perform their original dance work Innermore. It is unlikely that the community will have seen a dance duet quite like it before which is super exciting.
We have also invited Jenny Mezile a Haitian dancer and choreographer living in Cote D'Ivoire to come and work with local artists on the first day of the Festival to talk about the development of cultural industry in Ghana, self-financing local companies and performance production. The focus is to build the skills of the artists present so that they too can be more engaged in the facilitation of community arts in Ghana. Jenny is the Director of Afrik Urbanarts an arts Festival in Cote D'Ivoire and has performed internationally.
The Festival Committee and I are really excited to be hosting the Festival again this year and are looking forward to building on the success of last year, we will definitely need to hire some more chairs in 2016!
For more information about the Festival check out: http://www.luckylartey.com.au/tuumatu-festival or go to https://pozible.com/project/tuumatu-creativity-festival to support or fundraising for this year’s Festival.