On a sultry night in Accra, the air smells of wood smoke, brine from the wet but welcome breezes off the Gulf of Guinea and the plumeria trees that line the streets. This, and the soundtrack of chirping insects, barking dogs and gunning motor scooters, feels quintessentially West African.
But drive into the Stanbic Heights district, home to many of this tropical metropolis’s newest boutiques, galleries and brasseries, and you’ll feel as if you’ve somehow detoured into South Beach — albeit a version with far less attitude and much more charm. “Something is happening here,” says the Lebanon-born Nada Moukarzel, who has lived in Ghana’s capital for 20 years. “A lot of Ghanaian professionals are coming home from places like New York and London, because they’re attracted by the city’s friendliness and relaxed way of life. There’s also the burgeoning of a really talented creative class in Accra.” As if echoing her sentiment, the most recent Armory Show in New York City just unveiled its first-ever exhibition devoted to the art of Africa, which included works by local artists El Anatsui and Nengi Omuku.