The last time I attended the Ghana International Trade Fair was on a school excursion ages ago. In it’s 20th iteration, the Tamale Sports Stadium played host and boy is walking it’s circumference repeatedly, exhausting.
I didn’t know about the fair until my friends invited me, days after I’d spent hours googling upcoming events in town. I’m either out of place here or online publicity isn’t quite a thing yet. For example, I only found out that day about Irene Logan’s 3-day album pre-launch that ended the day prior. I need to up my gig finding game if I’m to survive my boredom fits.
Attending the week-long fair on March 6 ensured the place was overrun with kids trying to re-channel their excitement from the independence parade. Their numbers however thinned out as they took their seats in anticipation of a scheduled concert that featured kologo musician, King Ayisoba, Sherifa Gunu and some local acts.
I had a silly epiphany which is more stupid than silly considering what it was. I was surprised to see vendors from other countries at the fair. I guess I totally overlooked the “international” in the name. Anyhow, there were all sorts of things up for sale, from engineering, art, livestock down to kitchenette. I’ll just share what struck me.
Mamadi Mlenzene: He’s a Burkina painter whose work is as generic in theme as African paintings go but takes on otherworldly dimensions in technique and color. His paintings come alive and endear you thanks to their vibrancy and fluidity. What should simply be an adeptly balanced pot on a mother’s head holding a child’s hand becomes a beautiful masterpiece evoking different moods, interpretations and a psychedelic ride in the Millennium Falcon, taking you to a galaxy far, far away. You can find him here.
New Cooking Bag: Yes, you read that right, cooking bags! It’s supposed to be a cost effective way for low income women to prepare food, effectively minimizing fuel consumption. It’s an insulation chamber made by stitching fabric around a pan. Some amount of heat is applied to the food being prepared by an external source (coal, gas or electricity) then placed into the cooking bag to do the rest. Busy mothers can then leave the food in the bag while they attend to other things. The food can’t burn either since the heat is internal and evenly distributed. Pretty cool if you ask me. This could go a long way to reduce smoke inhalation for women who rely on coal. The biggest downside for me however is how long it’ll take to prepare one meal. Check them out here.
PureHome Water: I haven’t thought much about water filtration thanks to the many “pure” water companies around. Voltic is my preferred choice in Tamale and tap water is an absolute no, no. that notwithstanding, other people undoubtedly still rely on streams and wells and run serious risks of infection from water borne diseases. Pure Water aims to alleviate that by providing a cheap water filter that relies on simple homemade (but strictly regulated) materials. A clay bowl, fitted at the mouth of a plastic barrel slowly filters water poured into it. This principle works much like fresh ground water where the earth does the filtration. Note that, specific parameters are used in the molding of the clay, apparently a fragile process considering how much actually goes to waste. You can check the project out here and here.
Mami Wata Conmen (or Not?): Mankind is constantly in search of cures to ailments with no plans of taking vacations like Ghanaian mosquitoes and the fair had its share of men claiming to have just the right thing (combinations of herbs and some African Electronics) to trick the ailments into retirement. Menstrual cramps, dementia, hair loss, syphilis, cancer, rheumatism you name it, you’re covered. Oh don’t forget my favorites, cures for premature ejaculations and of course, phallus “elongbigata” (enlargement and elongation).I’m clueless about the efficacy of these drugs and will probably never try them. If you’re wondering why I started this one off with Mami Wata, it’s simple. Wikipedia tells me Mami Wata is not only the goddess of fertility but a healing deity as well. I’m just wondering if these medicine men are doing right by her with their drugs or if they’re just in it for the bucks.
Dogon Textile: They’re these elegantly striking and ancient looking fabric whose origins I never wondered about until the fair. Some have been incorporated in the décor at home so it was quite the elation to see something very familiar at the fair. Turns out they’re a native tradition much like Kente among the Ewe and Akan in Mali by the Dogon people, you know, the same tribe with the ancient cosmology rundowns that has academia inching closer to the esoteric.
Potaghurt: That’s just a portmanteau of potato and yoghurt. In retrospect, it should be spotaghurt, since potaghurt is a cream colored beverage that calls sweet potatoes, yoghurt, sugar as ingredients. It was such a welcome alternative to the other drinks on sale that I ended up drinking about five bottles. It leaves you thirsty for more afterwards though. That can be a pinch in your pocket if you’re careless.
WearNation: I’d heard about and seen these guys’ stuff but wasn’t intrigued because I was already familiar with their line of work, stitching local prints onto plain t-shirts among other things, just like Outphytz. Yet somehow, I stopped by their stand. I suspect it was the funky fly sales attendant that drew me in. While they showcased shirts with designs all over the place as I expected, two, aesthetically cohesive and somewhat minimal designs did catch my eye. Two weeks later, I have myself one of those designs and will probably get another. Their Instagram boasts some other cool gems you should definitely check out.
Nylon Furniture: I hadn’t seen stuff like this in a long time and was just nostalgic seeing the ropy campbeds. In retrospect, it wasn’t nostalgia, I simply needed to rest my sore back and the furniture looked comfy and sturdy as, eh, Nirvana.
The fair also showcased indigenous woven products and I got myself a raffia hat. I also chanced on an anonymous and really cool DIY cardboard mock up of a house.
The fair is great and all but besides checking out stuff, is mighty boring especially if you’re alone. Fairs shouldn’t be boring. This one had me more than wishing August was here already to experience the Chale Wote Street Art Festival which is part fair and all the cool artsy things you can think of; painting, music, theater, stunts, film, processions, the whole nine yards!
You can check out Chale Wote here.