How to End the Year of Return in Style

How to End the Year of Return in Style

by Stephanie Smith-Strickland

Ghana's Year of Return tourism initiative has inspired thousands of African diasporans to travel to both Lagos and Accra for the first time in 2019, marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in the United States.

It's an important step in gathering together a vast and diverse group of people that shares many cultural similarities. Ghana, formerly a slave trade hub, has become a major source of inspiration and grounding to Black intellectuals and activists throughout history. Maya Angelou spent years in Ghana, honing some of her most famous written works. W.E.B. Dubois became a naturalized citizen and was eventually buried in Accra. Even Bob Marley had a special love for Ghana, as did his widow, Rita Marley, who is now a Ghanaian citizen.

The ethos behind the Year of Return is to encourage those in the Black diaspora to rediscover their connection to Africa, and there are plenty of immersive experiences that invite visitors to do just that. Platforms like Tastemakers Africa curate everything from cooking classes to jewelry making workshops and visits to slave-holding castles like Elmina and Cape Coast in Ghana. And while the Year of Return is certainly underpinned by heavier themes, that doesn't mean those partaking can't also enjoy the vibrant nightlife and teeming creative culture of two of West Africa's most exciting cities.

If you'll be traveling in Lagos or Accra, or both, consider stepping out to these events which range from arts and culture happenings to late night beach parties where you can watch the sun rise with a cocktail in hand.


Arts & Culture

Native House

Featuring live music, workshops and an expertly curated audio-visual exhibition, Native House is a four-day event that aims to promote the cultural exchange of information. Highlights include a headline show from breakout artist Lady Donli, as well as the Roots: Rock, War & Funk, exhibition, which connects Nigeria's socio-political environment from 1960 —1976 with the music of the time. Visitors will have a chance to hear rare records and gain some insight into the influences of contemporary names like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy.

Where:African Artists Foundation 3B Isiola Oyekan Close, Off Adeleke Adedoyin St, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 16 through 20 from 1PM to 6PM
Free Event

Melanin Unscripted x Native House

Director and photographer Amarachi Nwosu's agency and publishing platform hybrid will host a series of pop up cultural activations tied to Native House December 18 through 20th. Events include a photo exhibition and panel featuring celebrated photographers like Stephen Tayo, Flo Ngala, Lawrence Ageyi and more. Speakers such as Tunji Balogun of RCA and Lawrence Burney of The Fader will also be on hand alongside artists like WurlD and Tems to discuss the state of music on the African continent and beyond.

Where: African Artists Foundation 3B Isiola Oyekan Close, Off Adeleke Adedoyin St, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 19 - 20 from 1PM to 8PM
Free Event

Street Souk

Street Souk is a must for the hype obsessed or the streetwear connoisseur. Featuring over 40 upcoming and established Nigerian brands ranging from Vivendii to Motherlan and Waffles n Cream, the event, which is only in its second year, drew crowds of over 2000 for its inaugural run last December. This year promises to be bigger and better with even more retailers showing and selling unique collections. Come ready to let out your inner hypebeast.

Where: Harbour Point 4 Wilmot Point Rd, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 18 from 12PM to 9PM
Entry Fee: 1000 Naira or roughly $2.75

Taking Up Space: In Conversation With Ore Ogunbiyi

Join Ore Ogunbiyi, co-author of Taking Up Space: The Black Girl's Manifesto for Change, at Alara Lagos for an intimate evening of drinks, music, and conversation on how her experiences being a Black woman at a predominantly white institution of higher learning inspired her literary journey. Ogunbiyi's book also happens to be the first piece of printed matter to come out of British-Nigerian rapper Stormzy's publishing imprint Merky Books.

Where: Alara Lagos 12a Akin Olugbade St, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 19 from 4PM to 6PM
Free with RSVP:

Wana 1619 Gala

Stylist and creative executive Ugo Mozie is hosting the second annual gala and fundraiser for We Are New Africa (WANA), his non-profit that aims to act as an incubator for young creatives on the African continent. Last year's attendees included Alton Mason, Ebonee Davis, Luvvie Ajayi, Bozoma Saint John and many more. This year will feature an intimate surprise performance from one of Mozie's favorite artists.

Where: Location provided on ticket purchase
When: December 23
Ticket & Table Inquiries:


Nativeland Festival

Expect to see some of the hottest artists from across the diaspora at this year's Nativeland. If you're planning on also attending Native House, it's a great way to let loose after a day of educational events. This year's headliners include the Grammy-nominated African Giant himself, Burna Boy, alongside Dave, Naira Marley, Santi, Rema, Koffee and more.

Where: Muri Okunola Park Ahmadu Bello Way Victoria Island, Lagos
When: December 19 from 5PM to 1AM
Purchase tickets

Flytime Festival Series

Flytime is hosting a multi-day concert series that will feature a special Christmas performance from Burna Boy as well as a headlining show from none other than the Houston Hottie herself, Megan Thee Stallion. Other performers include Boyz II Men, Koffee, Tiwa Savage, Mase and more. It should be noted, the great part about this particular festival is that you have the option to buy tickets for individual shows or to bundle tickets for the whole experience.

Where: Eko Convention Centre Plot 1415 Adetokunbo Ademola Street, PMB 12724, Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria
When: December 20 through 25 from 7PM to 1AM
Purchase tickets

District Day Party

If the all night turn up isn't quite your cup of tea, District's Day Party is a good way to get your fun fix and still be home before the clock strikes midnight (or not). Go for the vibes and stay for the music, which includes sets from Uncle Bubu, DJ Franky, Smallz the DJ, Vivendii Sound and Bristar. In the words of the event's creator, Adedayo Osinuga, "expect drinks flowing, it's about to be a good time, for real."

Where: Tilt Terrace, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 22 from 4PM to 12AM
Purchase tickets


DJ Tunez Blackout

What began in Brooklyn, New York, has become a global event helmed by renowned DJ and producer Tunez, who is behind some of today's biggest afrobeats and afrobeat hits. The party is a dedication to the interconnectedness of the Black diaspora, so expect to hear a mixture of hip-hop, dancehall, baile funk and more. Although special guests for Lagos are yet to be announced, Tunez never does a party without them, so keep your head on a swivel because you never know who might pop up

Where: Hard Rock Cafe Plot No 3 & 4 Block XVI Oniru Estate, Oniru Estate, near Landmark Centre, Victoria Island 550104, Lagos, Nigeria
When: December 19 from 10PM til late
Purchase tickets


Hosted by For the Culture, a digital platform for young African creatives, Copacabana is part day party, part concert and part beach kickback. Last year, the event saw over 2000 attendees and this year the number is only expected to climb. Grab your beach garms and be prepared for a surprise performance — Odunsi, Santi and Kida Kudz have all graced the stage in the past. Although the event starts at noon, last entries are at 5 PM and Uber is encouraged.

Where: Moist Beach Club Oniru Private Beach 1, Ligali Ayorinde Victoria Island, Lagos
When: December 20 from 12PM til late
Purchase tickets


Arts & Culture

V For Vanity Untamed

Conceptualized by Afrochella's Community Engagement Director Vernell Akyeampong, V for Vanity is an interactive light show centered around the theme of telling the stories of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The installation was created with social media sharing in mind so the Instagram obsessed should definitely make a stop here to pose or some like-worthy photos. After all, if you didn't 'gram it did it even happen?

Where: Untamed Spintex Road, Greater Accra
When: December 20 through January 5
Purchase tickets

The Annex

The Annex developed as a solution to urban sprawl. Rather than challenging tourists and locals to trek across the city for access to their favorite vendors, The Annex collects them all in one space. Perhaps the best part is that it is located within 10 minutes of the venues for Afrochella, Afro Nation and Detty Rave. Expect food, drinks, art installations and live music in a relaxed open air environment.

Where: Trade Fair, Courtyard La Road, Accra
When: December 23 through January 2 from 4PM to 5AM each day
Entry Price: 20 cedis or roughly $4

Waakye Summit

In 2016, Derrick Crentsil turned his passion for waakye into a business with a blog called Waakye Radar, which helps Accra locals find the best waakye joints in the city. Crentsil has since parlayed his fellow Ghanaian's love of this delicious dish (honestly, step away from the jollof and try it), into a day long food extravaganza. The event itself is free but you'll need to bring along cash to pay the many waakye vendors who will be onsite selling their goods.

Where: Mmofra Place - Sir Emmanuel Quist Street, Accra, Ghana
When: December 26 from 9 AM to 5 PM
Free Event

Tastemakers Mixer

Located in Osu, Front/Back is a members club similar to a Neuehouse or Soho House. Join Tastemakers Africa founder Cherae Robinson and her team for cocktails and conversation. The event is meant to bring together the many folks who will be in Accra for Year of Return festivities so if you're traveling solo it's a great way to meet new people.

Where: Front/Back First Osu Lane, Accra, Ghana
When: December 26 from 7PM to 9PM
Learn more

Meet The Moon Girls Group Exhibition:

Conceived by The Drama Queens, a Pan-Africanist, feminist NGO that uses art to explore the need for gender equity on the African continent, the Moongirls exhibition will feature comic art tied to these very themes. The series itself is inspired by MoonGirls, a graphic novel series that follows four African supersheroes who tackle issues ranging from patriarchy to rape culture and global warming.

Where: Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art Mukose Link, Accra, Ghana
When: December 27 to December 29
Free Event

The Cookout

The Cookout is bringing the American South to Accra with a trap-themed day party complete with red solo cups, music from the early aughts and plenty of "juice." The event will be hosted by BBNz Live and will feature sounds by DJ Sasyrae alongside some soon to be announced special guests. Come for the BBQ, stay for the twerking.

Where: Location to be announced
When: December 31 from 12PM to 6PM
Learn more

Renewal Series 

Another experience from the Tastemakers Africa team, the Renewal Series is ideal for those looking to start the New Year fresh with focus and intention. The event features a chef-led dinner along with a meditation session that will be led by a traditional healer who will perform an ancestral libations ritual. Guests will enjoy all of this against the backdrop of community art installations and a beachside setting that will end with a party under the stars.

Where: Location TBA
When: December 31 — January 1
Learn more

The Escape

Post-New Year, escape the Accra rush with an all-day adventure to Ghana's beautiful Volta region where you'll get to check out the Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa. After a day at the falls guests will be shuttled to a jungle party in a secret location.

Where: Wli Falls & Secret Location
When: January 2, all day
Learn more



Hosted by Ghanaian hip-hop artist, M.anifest, this day long festival is a celebration of the arts, music and culture driven by Accra's thriving creative scene. This year will feature performances by Adekunle Gold, Amaarae, Darkovibes and many more. Guests should also make sure to check out Manifestivities Gen Next stage, which will feature performances by emerging artists from all over Ghana.

Where: Bukom Arena
When: December 22 from 5PM to 11PM
Purchase tickets

Detty Rave

Hosted by emPawa Live, and conceived by Mr. Eazi, Detty Rave promises a night of dancehall and reggae tinged festivities. This year's headliners include breakout Jamaican star Koffee alongside Kranium, King Promise, Simi and soca king Machel Montano. It's not quite the same as carnival in the Carribean, but it's certainly a taste.

Where: Untamed Spintex Road, Greater Accra
When: December 27 from 5PM to 12AM
Purchase tickets

Afro Nation

Having already made a stop in Portugal earlier in the year, Afro Nation is coming to Accra for the first time. Set against the backdrop of balmy Laboma Beach, the festival promises a jam-packed lineup featuring Burna Boy, Davido, Shatta Wale, 6lack, Wiley, Wizkid and a number of surprise guests. If you're a music lover the festival is a must.

Where: Laboma Beach
When: December 27 through December 30
Purchase tickets


While Afrochella has become known for its main event — a day-long concert featuring some of Africa's hottest names — attendees can also enjoy a variety of activations leading up to the evening, which includes headliners like La Meme Gang. This year Afrochella has also partnered with AudioMack for a panel series featuring cultural critic Ivie Ani and Ghanaian producer Juls, who is behind hits from artists ranging from Mr. Eazi to Burna Boy. Head over to the Afrochella website to see the full list of experiences.

Where: El Wak Stadium
When: December 28 from 12PM to 8PM
Purchase tickets


Pine x Ginja

Soak in the pre-Christmas vibes at PinexGinja, a mashup of Ghanaian and Jamaican culture all rolled into one big bashment. Not only is the event officially endorsed by Ghana's Year of Return committee, it will feature both Ghanaian and Jamaican selectors, including DJ Juls. Food will also be available onsite so if jerk and jollof is a winning combo in your eyes, prepare to eat and enjoy.

Where: Pearly Gate Gardens Boundary Road, Greater Accra, Ghana
When: December 24 from 6PM to 4AM
Purchase tickets

Little Havana

Get dressed in all white and head to Little Havana for a post-Christmas turn up. The annual event, which hosted just over 6000 people last year, will be overflowing with champagne and vodka cocktails courtesy of sponsor Ciroc. Located in the hillsides of Aburi at the Little Acre Hotel — a 30 minute drive from Accra, ridesharing and Uber are encouraged.

Where: Little Acre Hotel Aburi, Akuapem
When: December 26 from 10 PM til late
Purchase Tickets: At door

All Black Everything 

While Little Havana demands an all white dress code, All Black Everything demands just the opposite. The party series, which started in Lagos is being imported to Accra for the first time. The dress code will be strictly enforced so have your most chic look ready.

Where: Carbon Nightclub Corner of Independence and North Liberation Link, Airport City, Accra, Ghana
When: December 29 from 10PM til late
Learn more

Throwback New Year II

Throwback New Year returns for a second year at Memory Lane Park to serve up old school hip-hop and R&B, and plenty of drinks to get guests dancing. Last year the event drew over 800 people and with Year of Return activities in full swing, it is expected to see double the volume this time around. Sounds will be provided by DJ Juls, Neptizzle, Eff the DJ, and DJ Risky.

Where: Memory Lane Park Liberation Road, Accra, Ghana
When: January 1 from 12PM til late
Purchase tickets


Located in the heart of bustling Labone, Twist Lounge is one of Accra's oldest and most visited nightlife attractions. All throughout the month of December the club will host a series of themed nights, playing music ranging from highlife to hip life, azonto, hip-hop and more. If you're looking for a pre-game spot or a nightcap, this might be the move.

Where: Twist Lounge Labone, Accra, Ghana
When: All December
Learn more

Photo courtesy of Afrochella