A message from our correspondent in Africa on the Pan-African Film and Television Festival

FESPACO (the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou) takes place every 2 years and 2011 marked its 22nd installment.  This year’s ceremony ran from Saturday, February 26th through Saturday, March 5th.  As a member of the film-video-communications industry and as someone who continually attempts to deepen his connection to the continent of Africa, I felt it important for me to attend the event this year.  My two main goals were to establish real contacts with industry-related persons and to enjoy the overall festival.
I left for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (pronounced Woah-gah-do-goo) from Accra, Ghana at 4pm on the 25th and arrived just prior to the festival’s opening ceremony around 5:30pm the next evening.  My intentions were to leave for Ouagodougo on Wednesday instead of Friday in order to allow time to settle into the political and economic capital of Burkina Faso(Burkina Faso’s cultural and music center or capital is the city of Bobo-Dioulasso) but I did not keep to my schedule which speaks to accountability on a personal level.  The issue of personal accountability seems to be an especially important one in West Africa for various reasons and it would do us all good to ponder the topic. 

The distance from Accra to Ouagadougou is about 485 miles.  With the help of a friend, I purchased my bus ticket in advance from one the several bus companies that provides travel throughout the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) area.  Of the bus companies I visited, I found that all of them provided only one-way tickets out of Accra to my destination but this did not hinder my return trip.  The bus route originated out of Accra and was scheduled for a 3pm departure but as stated earlier we did not leave until 4pm.  Back home in down-east North Carolina, along with African-Americans throughout the U.S., this is simply known as “CP Time” but it depends on which West African country you are in as to how it is termed here.  So, the bus departed Accra behind schedule or “Ghana Time” and arrived in Ouagadougou behind schedule or “Burkina Faso Time”.  CP Time, Ghana Time, and Burkina Faso Time are one in the same but just as the topic of personal accountability, it would also do us all good to ponder the consequences of such practices concerning “time”.

The bus was equipped with air-condition and over-head televisions but it did not have a bathroom facility which added to our travel time due to restroom breaks.  In addition, other factors that contributed to a 21 and 1/2 hour bus ride to travel 485 miles were 1)some portions of the main highway between the two cities were unpaved and/or under construction 2)the bus stopped in various other towns and cities to board and de-board other passengers  3)traffic was heavy along certain stretches of the route and 4)the border crossings between Ghana and Burkina Faso requires travelers to exit vehicles twice and complete two official screenings for both individual countries.

When I arrived in Ouagadougou I was tired, a bit hungry, and had only had a bird-bath since leaving Accra the day before.  Nonetheless, I was excited for I had been blessed to make it to the capital city in time to view the 22nd FESPACO opening ceremony.  Yet, the immediate challenge that faced me after de-boarding the bus was how to locate and physically get to the stadium where the ceremony was being held.  Most hotels, motels, and hostels provide pick-up vehicles from the airport or certain bus terminals but I had intentionally not reserved a hotel room prior to leaving Accra.  I did, however, create a list of lodging locations through an online search but I wanted to arrive in Ouagadougou before deciding.  So, after unsuccessfully bargaining with a couple of taxi drivers near the bus locale in the few words of broken French I had chosen to learn, I walked about 10 minutes away and approached two local persons at a shop.  One of them spoke English and after talking with them for a short while I was able to arrange for the English-speaking gentleman to drive me to the stadium.  He was either the shop owner or a relative of the shop owner but he was open, warm and had enough time in his schedule to make the 25-minute drive.  The stadium was filled and the opening ceremony was fantastic.  It included musicians, dancers, and extravagant pageantry.  Those in attendance ranged from local everyday people to the president of Burkina Faso.  It was a good beginning to an interesting festival.

If one is fluent in French then navigating Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso is fairly easy but interacting with the residents there in a sincere and genuine manner, regardless of what languages one speaks, goes even further.  My experience placed me in the company of hospitable and generous people throughout my stay in Burkina Faso.

——Alvester Miller III

Downtown business district of Accra (the capital of Ghana) in West Africa.

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