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Save to List: Carina Kanbi's West African Wave, part 1

A world’s worth of recommended spots from our global community
words – carina tenewaa kanbi
location – accra, ghana

At boom saloon, we’re incredibly privileged to collaborate with a community of hundreds of talented creatives all around the world, stretching from Ecuador to Egypt, China to Canada, Austria to Angola. Our strong relations have afforded us a wealth of insider insights into the best places to visit, eat and stay, all around the world. Now, we want to share this information with you as we work with our community to map the world and share their best recommendations of how to enjoy destinations both near and far. Our version of a city guide, delivered interactively and in real time – curated for all to enjoy and presented as a savable Google Map for our members to save and bookmark a wealth of future adventures.

By the end of the century, Africa’s population is estimated to account for 40% of the global population. The most rapid development is expected to occur in the 600 mile area between Abidjan and Lagos, where it is predicted the most remarkable demographic growth will happen in cities.

The last decade has witnessed the creation of new subcultures and creativity within West African cities; the energy and drive of young entrepreneurs in some of the world’s youngest urban hubs has not gone unnoticed. Young West Africans are creating cultural waves that transcend international borders and rewrite the narrative of African cities globally, attempting to support more sustainable, inclusive urbanism. To really appreciate the West African Wave of Accra and Lagos from the ground, it is crucial to relinquish control over one’s own schedule and instead embrace the dynamic and varying pace of these cities.  

In Lagos and Accra, where many residents grapple daily with social, political and economic challenges and pronounced disparities, specific spaces in the cities offer glimpses into a more equitable and just vision of the future. The changing narrative has been primarily shaped by bottom-up creative endeavours led by individuals who have relied on nothing but their own commitment, perseverance and tenacity. Volume one of my Save to List is a non-exhaustive introduction to some of these spaces and the people that define them, beginning with those in Accra.

Save to List on Google Maps

01_Alley Bar and Jamestown Coffee Roasters 

Nestled in an area that has become the organic hot spot for creativity, Nyaniba Estate – a short walk or ride from Osu – sits Alley Bar and Jamestown Coffee Roasters. The dynamic founding Ghanaian duo Kojo Bucknor and Kwasi Osei-Kusi have converted a former factory, and its access alley, into a cafe and live music venue. By roasting their own coffee beans from Ghana while showcasing and providing a platform for new Ghanaian musical talent, they have had a significant impact on the Nyaniba creative ecosystem in the two years since they opened.  The venues sit side by side and can be floated between easily. In the evening, they become one. Jamestown Coffee Roasters is a good place to work and meet a host of different people from near and far. Pass by for an Afadjato coffee or step out in the evening, where you are guaranteed to find a party because, after all, it is Accra – and parties are what we are known for.

 

02_Palm Moments 

Creating a community around sustainably sourced Ghanaian food and local DJs, Palm Moments in Asylum Down and Osu offers a place to unwind and embrace the sounds of Accra. Tasia Cobbinah’s Asylum Down venue often hosts artist panel discussions, has been instrumental in supporting early career DJs and has pop-up tasting brunches and dinners by Ghana Food Movement, an organisation and umbrella for anyone – in or outside Ghana – celebrating and trying to make Ghana’s food and food system fair, inclusive and future proof.

 

03_Elle Lokko

Consistency and commitment are two aspects necessary for a flourishing creative community. Stefania Manfreda of Elle Lokko has created a home for creatives that offers both and, in doing so, has empowered Accra’s creative – and her local – community. In addition to her fashion concept store, which showcases a range of Ghanaian and African brands, Elle Lokko has short-term spaces to rent and curate a number of creative interventions. It’s on both sides of Lokko Road in Osu, so cross over to get the full experience. The architecture of the newer [pink] space is typical of colonial structures in the Osu area, where you can find some of Ghana’s well-known compound houses. 

04_Osekan Bar 

You could easily lose track of the fact that Accra is a coastal city while you’re there. If you’re looking for a place to swim, head outside of the city centre to Kokorobite or Prampram, as more effort needs to be put into recycling and rubbish management centrally. Still, if it’s for a cold drink after a long day, I recommend you check out Osekan Bar in Jamestown. The sun always sets at the same time in Accra, so if you get there at 5.15pm you should catch the best of it! 

 

05_Makola Market 

Makola Market, which opened in 1924 in Accra’s primary commercial and business centre, is a place where you can buy practically everything. As Accra’s largest open-air market, it may get quite crowded, and the parking lots are nearly always full, so getting a taxi or a local bus often makes things a little more manageable. There are separate zones for different things, so if you are searching for anything specific, ask someone and they will point you in the appropriate direction. But if you want to just get a feel for a market where you will see the city colliding, get your elbows out and start wandering.  

 

06_Osei Duro 

Sustainable craft practices are essential to making Accra a more future proof city. Home to a vast amount of secondary market textile waste, there is no better place for conscious and considered fashion. Osei Duro, a Ghanaian fashion brand, ethically designs and produces hand-dyed pieces in Ghana using small-scale manufacturers and artisans. They have a charming showroom where you can check out their designs. It is situated in Kanda Estates, a planned residential area developed during Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s time, found in the city’s centre.

07_God’s Time is the Best Music Shop // Arts and Craft Market, Beach

Sandwiched between Makola, the sea and Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, this location is pretty unique. Imminent government and private developments [an important consideration when looking at sustainable and inclusive cities] may not be in their current location for much longer, so I recommend you go while all is still there. Whilst stopping at the first market stalls you reach is tempting, keep walking towards the back; here you will find artisans creating unique arts and crafts pieces and can often negotiate and commission custom works. Bargaining is part of the dance here, so go prepared to haggle. And don’t miss the ‘God’s Time is the Best’ record shop, where you can find some old-school high life records pressed in Ghana by Ghanaian legends such as Ebo Taylor.

 

08_Legon Botanical Gardens

Sustainable, equitable cities rely on balance. Rapid urbanisation in Accra has drastically changed the landscape over the last decade, so grounding yourself in open green space should be an essential part of your trip. The Legon Botanical Gardens offers boating, a ropes course [not for the faint-hearted] and, above all else, a picturesque walk. There are the main botanics, but you can also walk towards the back for a much larger and longer walk through slightly wilder nature – follow the looped path visible in the dry season. The space generally provides the necessary peace we all need.

 

09_Terra Alta 

Terra Alta, founded by multidisciplinary artist Elisabeth Sutherland, is tucked away off Achimota Road [just before Abelemkpe Junction, behind a nondescript black gate next to a plant shop]. It offers a calm atmosphere, embraces greenery and hosts various artistic events and community interventions and interactions. The space doesn’t always have a programme, so check ahead on their social media, but if they do, I would highly recommend whatever’s on.

 

10_Living Room 

It is worth the traffic, I promise. Living Room offers various Ghanaian dishes and is a bit of an Accra institution. I would recommend going for lunch; portions are big and fresh. Order the groundnut soup with omo tuo [rice balls] and an Alvaro pear – a local malt-based drink.

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