Photo by Ofoe Amegavie via 'The Burial of Kojo's' Kickstarter page.

'The Burial of Kojo' is a Tale of Two Brothers, a Blessed Child and Spiritual Destination

The film, directed and written by Ghanaian artist Blitz the Ambassador, recently made its world premiere at the Urbanworld Film Festival.

I wasn't prepared for the immense feeling of gratitude, wonder and possibility that enveloped me as I entered the theater to view The Burial of Kojo. Just short of a year ago, I remember sharing, supporting and writing about the Kickstarter campaign for Blitz's impending film, while sending wishful vibes out to the universe in hopes that this project will come to fruition. Blitz teased us with stunning photos of a young girl under a shower of golden electric sparks, a car burning below early morning daylight on a monochrome shore, and behind the scenes shots of the jubilant team posing near mines. The mystery and magical realism of the photography only heightened our anticipation of the birth of this film.

At this month's Urbanworld Film Festival, I watched The Burial of Kojo come to life in a sold out theater. From the opening visuals—filled with softly rustling waters, humble homes resting near rivers, bodies painted delicately in brown and sunshine with no desire to abandon—I was immediately transported to the land my mother dreams of and recalls to me in longing details. Ghana. And from the onset, it seems The Burial of Kojo is solely happening here. However, the film is occurring just as much in our psyche as it is in the afterlife and our fantasies. It is happening inside and out, upside and down.

Photo by Ofoe Amegavie via 'The Burial of Kojo's' Kickstarter page.

This tale follows a family of four: Esi, the inquisitive, wildly perceptive daughter, Kojo, a silent lover and father concealing secrets we can't predict, Ama, the wife and mother with stirring facial expressions yet very few words, and Kwabena, Kojo's enigmatic brother whose intentions we cannot easily place. The energy that flows between this ensemble makes the film compelling and heartbreaking, however it doesn't allow for each character to express themselves to their fullest extent. This decision lends insight to the nature of narration: when we enter a story, we are usually guided by one point of view, and this sets up a relationship that is not completely trustworthy, no matter how entangled we are in the narrator's emotions. There's more than one side to every story.

We are encouraged to believe that Kojo and Kwabena are the heart of this tale. Seven years ago, Kojo's mistake leads to a fatal incident that both he and his brother can never forgive. Kojo has created his own version of purgatory by running away, settling in a new community and starting a family, in hopes of escaping his past. Esi, the light of his eyes, possesses the gift of traveling between this world and the spiritual realm, which causes her great discomfort until Kojo is finally able to acknowledge his past wrongdoings. Surrounding their troubles is the widespread threat of galamsey—illegal mining—environmental and infrastructure issues and unproductive foreign intervention for profit that is occurring in parts of Ghana. All of these elements are sewn together with the sins of Kojo and the burden it places on his powerful and intuitive daughter.

Photo by Ofoe Amegavie via 'The Burial of Kojo's' Kickstarter page.

Yet, as I mentioned above, things are not always what they seem. Destination is a key factor in this film, especially how it relates to our mortality and ancestry. We accept that death is inevitable, but we like to believe that death and all of its friends exist in another room, behind a door we step into when time has run out, when it's actually all around us—it's less a door and more a sheer curtain. Submitting to this harmony brings a shining light to the afterlife, rewriting it as another plane of existence instead of consequential doom.

Blitz has spent the majority of his career using music, style and visuals to explore the power of female children, spiritual omens and Ghanaian values. The Burial of Kojo was fateful: it was written in his stars before he even realized the fantastical patterns occurring in his music videos. This question looms throughout the film and has lingered within me since stepping out of the theater: what are we leading ourselves into with every move we take—and how will we submit to it and turn it into something meaningful when that pivotal moment finally arises?

'The Burial of Kojo' took home an award for Best Narrative Feature (World Cinema) at Urbanworld Film Festival. Keep a look out for screenings in major cities around the world by following the film's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Festival de Cannes.

From Baloji’s Debut to a Sarafina! Remaster, These are the African Films Playing at Cannes.

Back for its 76th edition, the grande dame of film festivals features a healthy crop of African films on offer, both in and out of competition.

Over 35 years ago, Souleymane Cissé became the first African filmmaker to have his feature film selected for the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival. Yeleen (also known as Brightness) went on to win the jury prize at the fest, a coveted feat for any filmmaker. Following that auspicious year, the Malian director had four more films premiere at the fest, but that moment will forever be etched in African cinema history for the breakthrough it heralded.

In the years following, films by African directors have sought to leave their mark on the world’s most popular film festival, whether in the main official selection or in one of the fest’s sidebar programs like Un Certain Regard, Director’s Fortnight, or Critics’ Week. From the urgency of Mapantsula to the highly influential dark satire of Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas, to Wanuri Kaui presenting the first Kenyan film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival, African filmmakers have used the fest to share alternative visions of cinema, situated beyond the Western gaze.

And now, after weathering the Covid-19 pandemic and a number of controversies over the past few years, Cannes has returned with a bumper-packed edition, which runs from May 16th until the 27th. During which, it will pay tribute to Cissé. He will be awarded the Carrosse d’Or, an honor bestowed by the Directors’ Fortnight committee as a signal of his place in cinema history.

Although the festival is known for bringing the best of the best filmmakers together, and showcasing emerging talent, it has often been chastised for its lack of women directors. This year, it’s increased the number of women whose films will be screened during the fest – and along with that, dedicated a healthy space to first-time African filmmakers, too.

Not only will more African titles be playing throughout the fest, but British Zambian director Rungano Nyoni, who made her feature debut at Cannes in 2017 with I Am Not a Witch, and Moroccan director Maryam Touzani, whose The Blue Caftan made the Oscars shortlist, are both part of the jury that will help decide this year’s Palme d'Or winner.

Here, we take a look at some of the African films you’re sure to be hearing more about over the next two weeks.

'Banel and Adama'

BANEL E ADAMA by Ramata-Toulaye SY

In 2019, Mati Diop became the first Black woman director to have a film in the official selection at Cannes. Now, French Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy brings her debut feature to Cannes, as it slots into the main selection, looking to compete for the Palme d’Or. Most noted for her 2021 short film Astel, which was the winner of the Share Her Journey award at the 2021 Toronto Film Festival, Sy is an exciting filmmaker to watch. She wrote Banel and Adama about a couple that lives in a small remote village in the north of Senegal, and what happens when Adama chooses love over his blood duty as future chief.

'Omen (Augure)'

We’ve been eagerly anticipating this title since Baloji first let it be known he was working on a full-length feature. Divided into four chapters, the film takes audiences deep into folklore and myth, with the tales of four people believed to be witches and sorcerers. The Belgian Congolese rapper makes his feature film debut with Augure, and it also stars South African singer Bongeziwe Mabandla.

'Goodbye Julia'

This film marks the first time a Sudanese film features in the official selection at Cannes. Mohamed Kordofani brings Goodbye Julia to the Un Certain Regard, and it stars Eiman Yousif and Siran Riak (former Miss Sudan), as two women entangled by a hit-and-run incident. The film is billed as depicting the complicated relationship between the two woman as reflecting the differences between northern and southern Sudanese communities.

'Mambar Pierrette'

A still from Mambar Pierrette of a woman walking with a young girl who is carrying a pail on her shoulders.

Cameroonian director Rosine Mbakam brings her debut film, ‘Mambar Pierrette,’ to this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Photo courtesy The Party Sales.

Cameroonian director Rosine Mbakam brings this docu-drama, portraying the life of a seamstress and her mother, to Directors' Fortnight sidebar. Set in Cameroon's largest city, Douala, the film is slated to be about weathering misfortunes to stay afloat. Another director who will be showcasing her first feature at Cannes, Mbakam has spoken of her delight at taking part in this year’s fest, especially since the story is a personal one for her.

'Omar La Fraise'

French Algerian Elias Belkeddar makes his feature film debut with this production. It stars Reda Kateb and Benoît Magimel as members of Algiers' criminal underworld, and is part of the official selection's midnight screenings.

'Les Filles D’Olfa'

Tunisia’s Kaouther Ben Hania promises a unique cinema-going experience with her latest film, which tells the story of Olfa, a Tunisian woman who is the mother of four daughters, two of which disappear one day. To fill in their absence, the filmmaker invites professional actresses to lift the veil on Olfa and her daughters’ life stories. The Tunisian director continues to draw acclaim for her work, following 2020’s Oscar-nominated The Man Who Sold His Skin.


One of three Moroccan films at this year’s Cannes, director Faouzi Bensaïdi brings forth a tale about friends and debt collectors. It’s his fourth feature, and also one that he wrote the screenplay for.

'Little Girl Blue'

French Algerian Mona Achache is a docudrama starring Marion Cotillard. The actor plays the director's mother, who Achache decides to "resurrect" to understand more about her life. A late addition to the festival, it premieres as a special screening.

'Les Meutes (The Hounds)'

Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq follows a father and son, both small-time crooks in Casablanca's criminal world. The film premieres in Un Certain Regard, marking the director’s first feature foray, after a number of short films, including Traitors and The Trap.

'Kadib Abyad (The Mother of All Lies)'

Asmae El Moudir examines her family history in Casablanca, and reflects on the impact of the 1981 Bread Riots. The film premieres in the Un Certain Regard strand, and is also the filmmaker’s first feature-length documentary.

Bonus film: 'Sarafina!'

The seminal protest film, which made its debut over 30 years ago, at the festival, and stars Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo, Miriam Makeba and John Kani, is back on the line-up – this time as part of the Cannes Classic selection. Produced by Anant Singh and directed by Darrell James Roodt, a digitally remastered Producer's Cut with never-seen-before footage will be screened in partnership with IMAX.

Photo by Misper Apawu.

Is This The End for Ghana’s First Skatepark?

Locked in a land dispute, the future of Freedom Skatepark hangs in the balance. We spoke to the park's founder, Sandy Alibo, who is now in a struggle to keep the first skatepark in West Africa from shuttering.

On April 30, a contractor alongside 30 workers stormed Ghana’s Freedom Skatepark, demanding to build a wall on the premises. According to the contractor, the initial land owner who leased the land to the Freedom SkatePark team did it under illegal terms. The skatepark officials managed to legally hold them off that day.

On May 6, the workers came again. This time they were able to erect a wall, using violent threats according to reports. This development has sent a frisson of hopelessness throughout Ghana’s youth and cultural communities. Further, it has perplexed Sandy Alibo, the founder of the park. The land was leased to the Freedom Skatepark for 10 years, and the amount was fully paid by the Surf Ghana collective.

“When we first came, we wanted to buy the land but then we couldn’t afford it so we opted to rent it instead,” Alibo told OkayAfrica. “We rented it for 10 years and paid all expenses.”

Security personnel from the Ghana police service seen at the freedom skatepark in Accra. Security personnel from the Ghana police service seen at the freedom skatepark in Accra.Photo by Misper Apawu.

Freedom Skatepark is now known globally as a place where anyone, irrespective of age, class, or any affiliation can come to just be themselves — just last month U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the park. But the land once looked like a jungle. It has since been transformed into a standard skatepark, with a house adjacent to the park, that was also rented by Alibo, used to organize workshops and host projects.

As it stands, the leasing agreement in the name of Freedom Skatepark is being challenged by another person who claims he owns the land. This alleged owner has kept their identity away from the media and is operating solely through their subordinates. To affirm ownership, they ordered the construction of a wall to mark the territory.

As such, it has forced the skatepark into an indefinite closure. Since it first opened its doors to the public in December 2021, the Freedom Skatepark has been a community lifeblood in Ghana, a symbol of freedom where youths can skate and engage in art forms including music, photography, and painting.

It's barely been over a year yet the future of the park is in jeopardy and as tenants, they are caught in the crossfire of a land dispute. This has triggered the indefinite closure of the park

How it all Began

The dream started seven years ago by Sandy Alibo, a Caribbean woman whose vision was to bridge the gap between the Black community in the diaspora and Africans. To do this, she decided to elevate board sports and that birthed Surf Ghana, a collective championing youth participation in surfing and skateboarding.

“My vision for the skatepark was to increase the practice of skateboarding, improve African and Black representation in the community, and create a safe space for the people,” says Alibo.

Before Sandy began Surf Ghana, skateboarding and surfing were foreign to Ghanaians. They were used to “traditional sports,” popular amongst them being football and boxing. What made Surf Ghana stand out was its utmost interest in creating and serving the community. Alibo's vision was to create communities for skateboarding and surfing under one umbrella.

Aerial view of the freedom skatepark in AccraAerial view of the freedom skatepark in AccraPhoto by Misper Apawu.

They solicited equipment from enthusiasts around the world, receiving used skateboards from boarders and skate shops through donations. Subsequently, they began teaching people how to skate on the streets. Safety became a luxury they couldn’t afford on these streets when authorities and other people wouldn’t tolerate it.

This was the primary reason Alibo started crowdfunding for a space skateboarders could call their own. The late Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and former artistic director of Louis Vuitton, together with Pan-African clothing brand, Daily Paper, extended a hand in helping the collective raise the needed funding for what would be the first skatepark in West Africa.

Alibo saw potential in Ghana’s vibrant youth, and love for street and urban culture and believed they could build this park on their own and manage it as well. “For the skatepark, the main goal was to have a space, managed by the youth, by women, and engage conversation in sports, in arts and culture as well,” says Alibo.

The Freedom Skatepark has given this sense of belonging to street kids and the youth. Further, it has become a hub for creative work, ranging from music, photography, dance, graffiti art, fashion designing, and mentorship programs that teach its community entrepreneurial skills.

“This park has the imprint of members of the community on it,” says Alibo. “The tables and chairs here were designed by skateboarders, the art on the wall by skateboarders, and the photos and the park itself were designed and built by skateboarders. So losing this, as you can see, is frustrating.”

Since its inception, Alibo has been able to hire 15 of the community’s youth to manage and run the park and its activities. Most of the youth had no idea what accounting, project management, hospitality management, event organization, or brand collaboration was like. But granted this opportunity, they are receiving practical lessons on how to use these skills in sustaining a community edifice.

“Managing a place comes with a lot of responsibility and that is why today I am very sad because it is a lot of effort,” says Alibo. “Seven years! Seven years to convince people to build a place that gives hope to the whole country. It is a symbol for the nation, youth empowerment and it is a place where Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and Kamala Harris visited to spend time with us. And this is not a common thing to see just anywhere in Ghana. That is why I was so enthusiastic about this project and community because it stands for so much hope.”

A domino effect on the Skate Gal Club

Tearing down the park would mean tearing down four years of investment. One thing Alibo was able to accomplish is creating a safe space for women. In 2019, they started the Skate Girls Club, an operation that broadened the diverse ways girls can participate in sports and arts. These women not only skate but come to the park to find sisters, build their confidence, have conversations about trauma, abuse, and how to grow into better versions of themselves.

“We dedicate Thursdays solely to girls to come around and skate or have fun,” says Alibo. “ But before the park, we used to rent out private spaces to train with the girls. It is a healing process we like to call skate therapy.”

Right beside the skate park, there is a music studio dedicated to the public. Interested or upcoming artists come over to pitch their project and they are allowed four hours to record their art monthly for free. The studio has a calm ambiance with surf boards and skateboard artifacts to highlight the culture. Upcoming artists are also allowed to host listening sessions for their music in the space.

Interior of the Vibrate studio supported by Spotify at the freedom skatepark in AccraInterior of the Vibrate studio supported by Spotify at the freedom skatepark in AccraMisper Apawu

The collective named this initiative Project Vibrate, and it has provided musicians, spoken word artists, and DJs resources they need to elevate their skills. Collaborations with Spotify and Kendrick Lamar’s label, PG Lang, have contributed to the success of Project Vibrate.

“With the help of the community, we have been able to develop an educational program. So every month we organize a masterclass here and this place is always full with 100, 200 people,” says Alibo. “So if we have all these people coming to support us, we are really frustrated today because it is like people don’t understand the meaning of this project, the power of this project. It is unfortunate that we are caught in the crossfires of a land dispute where we are only tenants.”

Their rise in Ghana’s urban culture has been meteoric, which has extended into collaborations with huge and influential institutions including the United Nations, Meta, French Embassy, the U.S. Embassy, and the Dutch Embassy.

“For me, they are taking away joy and opportunity,” Nella, a freelance dancer who rehearses at the park, tells OkayAfrica. “This is a space I get to express and be myself with a community of like-minded individuals and everything is free which is so rare. To see the park being destroyed like this breaks my heart.”

A Call for Help

Alibo has called on the Ministry of Sports, the Ghana Olympic Committee, and the National Sports Authority to come to their aid. A donation page has been put up to help pay the legal fees for settling the current land dispute.

#SaveFreedomSkatepark has been trending for the past week. The online community has been vocal in its effort to help save the park. Influential voices like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa have expressed their disdain towards the obliteration of the park.

Spotify logo is seen in the Vibrate studio at the freedom skatepark in AccraSpotify logo is seen in the Vibrate studio at the freedom skatepark in AccraMisper Apawu

The skatepark is an edifice that has rejuvenated and diversified street and urban culture in Ghana. Losing will certainly upend the progress and years of investment and resources put into realizing a rare yet difficult dream.

There is a lot at risk but there is also some optimism within the community that some sort of middle ground can be figured out. “ I am looking beyond the damage being done here,” Tommy, a community manager for the park tells OkayAfrica. “I believe everything can be settled in a diplomatic way so we reach a consensus. It is sad what is happening here but it can be solved if we speak and negotiate with the right people.’’

News Brief

Uganda's President Will "Go To War" Over New Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill

President Museveni is defending the world's harshest anti-human rights bill, threatening death for being gay.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has declared that he will go to war to protect the country's anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed this week. "The NRM (National Resistance Movement) has never had two languages," he said in a statement released by his office on Wednesday, "What we tell you in the day is what we shall say to you at night. The signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is finished; nobody will move us, and we should be ready for a war. Remember, war is not for the soft." Museveni made an onslaught of chaotic comments when he met with lawmakers from his ruling party this week, as he continues to defend signing one of the world's harshest anti-LGBTQ+ bills to date.

Keep reading...Show less

The Best South African Songs Right Now

Featuring new South African music from Inkabi Zezwe, Nomfundo Moh, Tyla, K.O, A-Reece and more.

Here are the South African songs and music videos that caught our attention this month.

Keep reading...Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox


Rukky Ladoja on Building a Socially Responsible Nigerian Fashion Brand

The Nigerian designer behind Dye Lab has established a popular design brand based on the principle of little to no waste.

Burna Boy Shares New Single ‘Sittin' On Top Of The World’

The African Giant samples Brandy and Ma$e in his new summertime-ready single.

Places in Lagos to Have Fun this Weekend

From Plantain People’s Party by Dodo Gang to Sunday Drunch at 355 Ikeja, here’s where to spend the weekend in Lagos.

The Best Ghanaian Songs Right Now

Featuring King Promise, Efya, Kwesi Arthur, Amaarae, Mr Drew and more.


The Best Afrobeats Songs Right Now

Featuring tracks from Joeboy, Amaarae, Odumodublvck, Wande Coal, Wizkid, Ckay, and more.