Afrochella 2019: The Hits and (Many) Misses!
Feb 28, 2020
I booked my ticket for Afrochella in April 2019 after seeing some promo for the event on Twitter. I had no plane tickets to Ghana, had no clue where I’d stay, didn’t know much about the event and I didn’t even tell my husband about it as yet.
All I knew was I had the chance to score early bird VIP tickets to what looked like an amazing, melanin-infused event that was being hyped as one of the can’t miss events of the year…and it was happening in The Motherland. It was perfect too; the dates perfectly lined up with our annual NYE trip, so I booked two tickets and let the universe do its thing!
Being at Afrochella 2019 was super dope too because it coincided with the Year of The Return celebrations in Ghana where Black people from all walks of life descended on our first home to reconnect with their routes, discover ourselves, bond tighter with family and just be…unapologetically Black!
Fresh off of nearly 24 hours of flying, less than five hours of sleep and still catching our bearings in a new city we woke up early that Saturday morning and Ubered to what promised to be one of the most lit, festive experiences of the year! In some ways it was, but in other ways, I walked out of the El Waak Stadium a tad bit disappointed and wanting more.
So since I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl, I’ll start with the things I loved about the event, like (again) being in the company of so many amazingly melanated and moisturized people. The event itself is a celebration of African culture from our hair, our traditions, our art, our people, our food, our music and our natural ability to just vibe with each other – strangers and friends. The event did a great job at bringing the rainbow of color to the grounds through beautiful installations and picturesque backdrops. The tribal painting seen on so many faces made me happy, but I never found the vendors who were doing it! Bummer!
My VIP tickets were a good buy too, since it came with a VIP entrance that allowed us to dodge the other long lines, we had closer seating to the stage and the coolest little teepee tents that we sat under all day. Our friendly VIP volunteers also saved the day by keeping a keen eye on our tent and belongings when we ran off to take photos or get drinks.
A little more than half way through the event we got super hungry and for the longest time we’d only seen this one, singular, solo food truck at the rear of the event. Of course, the line wrapped. I begrudgingly got in line when I saw a lady biting into this delicious looking gourmet hot dog, so I asked her if she’d gotten it at this truck. She told me no and let me know that there were a ton of food vendors on the other side of the gate. I made my way to “the other side” and to my surprise, there was a whole different Afrochella party taking place. Food vendor after food vendor, a smaller stage with artists performing, jewelry, craft and even clothing vendors were all hidden back there and I was so happy I found this place!
I ordered some jollof rice with chicken, a few gourmet hot dogs, some bottles of fresh squeezed lemonade and water and more delicious homemade bites.
We left Nassau on Wednesday, got into Ghana on Friday and were up bright and early Saturday morning getting ready for Afrochella. The event was supposed to start at noon, so we got there shortly before. But as we would quickly learn, NOTHING in Ghana starts on time and this was true for the duration of our entire trip. Waiting on food at restaurants, waiting to cash out in stores, waiting for this event to begin; Ghana is notorious for operating on CP time and they’re just used to it, they’re unfazed, but I was bothered. When we arrived at our gate, we surprisingly got our wrist bands pretty quickly but the nearly two-hour wait afterwards (without explanation, apologies or reasons) to actually get inside the venue annoyed me.
Here I am; five months pregnant, standing on a growing line in the most uncomfortable Converse tennis ever, hot, sticky, still jet lagged, hungry and finding any and everything to turn into a chair. I was so annoyed by the extremely late start and when we finally got inside, I quickly realised the organizers weren’t even ready to go. People were still setting up booths and stalls, technicians were still running through sound tests and we were literally among some of the first people there. Even when the event finally got underway, literally about five hours late, the vibes never intensified as I expected. We ran into some cool people, saw some great things, but it just never came all the way together, vibe-wise, like I thought it would.
The event lacked direction, focus and signage! This was the cause of me not knowing there was a whole other party happening behind that one food truck. We literally could’ve missed a second party…and all that food if it hadn’t been for that woman I saw. Thanks, girl! Anyways, after all of that, we officially settled into our teepee tent to enjoy the show that never started until after 8pm. Still we danced along to the deejay, watched a few cultural acts and made the most of our time.
IDK what the drink stations were like in general, but they literally had two tiny bars to serve hundreds of people and set up with only a handful of drinks to choose from. Not that it mattered to me (see preggo belly!) but I felt so bad for my hubby who just wanted to indulge for a bit but after towing a line at the bar for 20 to 30 minutes only to be told “these are all the drinks and chasers we have to choose from.”
Later into the event, random hoards of people started jumping the fence that separated general admission from VIP. We sat so close to the gate and I was deathly afraid of being trampled by partygoers who didn’t care that were sitting there, they were just desperate to get closer to the stage. After the first time it happened, I thought security had it under control, but nope, it happened at least three more times, so we left. I’m carrying precious cargo and was not about to risk it all for some crazed afrobeat fans.
If I’m keeping it all the way real (as I do!) I should’ve been prepared for a not so well oiled machine. In the days and months leading up to the trip, I got so many emails from the Afrochella crew advising me of issues with ticketing, then apologizing saying those emails were sent by mistake, then more emails telling me I had to again verify my purchase, then telling me my purchase wasn’t verified and I had to bring government identification on site to get my wrist bands, it was just tew much! But the ticketing process on the ground was actually pretty easy as I explained above.
For my first experience, I really expected the glossy, well put together, professional and bomb ass marketing campaign they executed to be carried out into the actual event; it wasn’t and I was disappointed in some ways. Overall, I do think Afrochella is worth experiencing firsthand! I know the event is still in its early days and still growing through the hiccups, so I wont write it off just yet.