Thursday, October 6, 2011

Maxwell the (Mad?) Chalk Artist Man

"Take me to New York City," he said.

I was standing under Accra's only train bridge, talking to the city's number one chalk artist.  I had noticed his work - chalk text scrawled on sidewalk and bridge walls around Accra's main motorway interchange - pedaling past with my mountain bike on rides north toward the Aburi hills.

But this time I wasn't biking through.  I came to check out the art and artist, and I brought my camera.

"Take me to New York City," he said to me again.  I wasn't sure whether to make a joke or ignore the request.  I didn't realize I was about to become this artist's patron.

After that direct opening, and given the dense and conspiracy-driven nature of his text art, I wasn't sure what to expect.  But as I squatted down beside the man for a chat, I found him quite lucid and conversational.

His name, I learned, was Maxwell, and he seemed happy for some attention.  I spent some time, then, taking pictures of Maxwell and his art.

In our conversation, it came out that he was out of chalk.  A few nubs by his flip-flopped feet, he showed me, were all he had left.

So, after doing some other shooting around the area, I wandered over to the nearby mall, picked up a couple boxes of chalk, and brought them back to Maxwell.  He was glad to have some tools for his trade again.

My first patron-of-the-arts position.  And all it took was two packs of chalk.  What a deal.

In return, Maxwell shared his lucky lotto numbers with me.

As I was leaving, a passerby in a bright yellow t-shirt stopped to talk to me, curious why I was taking photos of the off-the-grid guy hanging out under the train bridge.

"He's just a mad man, you know," the man in the bright yellow t-shirt said.

"He's an artist," I said.

The man in the bright yellow t-shirt asked me how long I had been in Ghana.  He asked for my telephone number.  He said he liked me.  “I want to spend time with you,” he said.

Um, I just met you, dude.  Who's the mad one now?

A few days later, I stopped by to see Maxwell again as I pedaled through once more toward the Aburi hills.  He was sound asleep, but had left his own reply to the man-in-the-yellow-t-shirt's comment scrawled on the sidewalk by his head.

"Everybody crazy."
I'm inclined to agree.


Kelly Kincaid said...

I loved it. Really well written. (and that underpass looks very familiar... is that approaching Asylum Down?)

arosenbklyn said...

What an awesome experience. Hi Joe, I'm glad to have found your blog. I will be moving to Ghana at the end of this year. Your pictures and experiences are so intriguing- I can't wait to get there and build my own.