The 2017 Ake Arts & Book Festival Buzz
I cannot get over how excited I was about last year’s Ake Festival.
It was my first and had quite a number of Africa’s favorite authors hosting panel discussions and book chats.
But that was not what amazed me the most. The faithfulness of attendees was mind-blowing. I met fans of African Literature who dedicate their yearly vacation for the “Ake Cause”.
Now, in its 5th year, having lived up to expectations each year, you may wonder if you should attend the Ake Arts and Book Festival this November.
If the intriguing theme centered on women doing creative things in the continent and beyond does not appeal to you, how about the fact that authors Nnedi Okoroafor, Ishmael Beah, and Ama Ata Aidoo are going to be there?
Once things get in full swing from Thursday, November 16th, the events run from 8:30am to 10pm and you need a festival plan. Here is mine:
Thursday Morning at the Ake Festival
Choosing to attend the Panel Discussion on Financing the Creative Arts goes without saying. As a creative making a living from creativity, I will be all ears. Diran Olojo of FCMB and British Council’s Ojoma Ochai will be on, alongside Cynthia Nwuka and Tom Ilube. The moderator is Omenana Magazine’s co-founder Mazi Nwonwu.
Now, that the money talk is out of the way, let’s get into the literary delight proper. The first book chat slot goes to Stay with Me written by Ayobami Adebayo. Now, I have to say that being glued to this book was an understatement. There were characters I totally disliked and actions that had me annoyed, but still reading. Stay with Me was nominated for The Bailey’s Prize for Fiction and has made its rounds in the literary circles. Here is an interview I had with its author, Ayobami.
May I confess here that I never finished read Yvonne Owuour’s Dust, still I find this book alluring. The imagery and characters stay with you after every page. I know I will finish Odidi Oganda’s story in time, just like I did Kweku Sai’s in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. Poet, Dami Ajayi is hosting this panel, which is quite interesting. He and Ayobami are both involved with Saraba Magazine, a literary cocktail that will be launched and lunch 🙂
Thursday Afternoon at the Ake Festival
Thursday afternoon’s first Panel Discussion will be moderated by creative powerhouse presenter, Arit Okpo. Directing Her Narrative: African Stories is the theme and Sara Bletcher, Shirley Frimpong-Manso, Tope Oshin, and Jade Osiberu will all be in conversation. Something about this panel makes me feel like there is hope for translating some of our favorite Nigerian novels to film. Let’s see how it goes.
One of my biggest reservations with a female themed Ake edition was missing out on male writers, but the Ake team have this all thought out. I am super pumped about the Cross-country Conversations from Lagos to Limbe. Emmanuel Iduma who I admire for his work with Invisible Borders and Saraba will be moderating this discussion. There are 10 participants and 3 mentors and get this, only one female in the mix.
So, let’s not try to be envious of PR Creative extraordinaire, Rayo Adebola as she hoards Ishmael Beah to herself in this Book Chat. Okay, we know that is not going to happen. Ishmael Beah is the author of A Long Way Gone and Radiance of Tomorrow. There is hardly a dry eye in the room whenever he narrates the ordeal child soldiers do face. This is going to be an emotional one.
Friday Morning at the Ake Festival
Friday starts off with something new called the Early Bud Session. Will this be readings as attendees eat breakfast or an introduction to young writers in the literary space? We’ll have to wait to find out. Marvelous Michael, author of Birthmarked and Burning Bright author, Mariam Awaisu will be up first.
If last year’s edition was a marriage of music and literature, then this year is poised to fuse TV and literature. Media Personality, Lamide Akintobi will moderate a book chat featuring Alexis Okeowo’s A Moonless Starless Sky and Dayo Olopade’s The Bright Continent. Alexis Okeowo writes for one of my favorite magazines for short fiction, The New Yorker, so this should be interesting.
Have you heard of Performance Storytelling? Mara Menzies will be treating the audience to her piece, The Illusion of Truth. Men Who Write Women is the next Panel Discussion, I will be at listening to Ishmael Beah, Giles Foden, and Toni Kan answer questions from Moderator, Zukiswa Wanner.
Friday Afternoon at the Ake Festival
Right after lunch, the main hall will be ready for a book chat featuring Hadiza El-Rufai (An Abundance of Scorpions) and Zinzi Clemmons (What We Lose). The moderator is the ever lively Kinna Likimani. I will segue into the Festival of Short Films once that is concluded.
Now, I know should probably move on, but I am still sad that I did not get to watch Udoka Onyeka’s short film No Good Turn to the end last year because of technical difficulties. I had to ask Brymo, whose soundtrack made this film come alive, what happened at the end. Let’s look forward to a hitch-free showing of Through Her Eyes, Bariga Sugar, and Face of Defiance.
Saturday Morning at the Ake Festival
What a coincidence that I am currently reading the collection of short stories, Son of Man by Amara Nicole Okolo. This will be one of the two books for Saturday’s Early Bud Session. The second is Diekara Oloruntoba’s When Lemons Grow on Orange Trees. Even from last year’s Ake Festival, there was a buzz about this book being a must-read.
May I safely predict that the hall is going to be maxed out in this next Book Chat. It features Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death) and Diane Awerbuck, (Gardening at Night) with host Geoff Ryman. I am not talking about just popularity here. Most Ake Festival attendees who can only spare a weekend will join up with others on this day. Maimouna Jallow’s Story-telling session of Baba Segi’s Wives will follow. Word has it that audiences from all over the world love what Maimouna creates. As I missed this Lola Soneyin authored novel when it was adapted as a stage play, this should be a great experience.
Choices return with the first Panel Discussion of Saturday. I am eager to see what the Panel Discussion on Truth Will Out: Biographies and Truth-Telling will offer. The panelists are Toke Makinwa, Samira Sanusi, and Hannah Pool. The moderator is Chioma Ogwuegbu aka Asa Nwa.
Saturday Afternoon at the Ake Festival
By this point, the Ake withdrawal symptoms will start to show. The final panel discussion I will be at is What are Africans Reading? Roqueebah Olaoniye, Joy Isi Bewaji, Nneka Ijeoma, and Adebola Rayo make up a 4-woman panel. They will respond to questions and topics raised by moderator, Isabella Akinseye. Isabella is the host of the show, African Literati on Mnet’s Africa Magic Channel.
The final Book Chat of the festival is with Olumide Popoola and Mohale Mashigo. They and their novels When We Speak of Nothing and The Yearning will be drilled by literary scholar, Kola Tubosun. He always does his homework and research. I vividly recall last year’s lively discussion with Alain Mabanckou and Okey Ndibe. So, this is one not to miss.
Do you remember the book, Our Sister Killjoy? The Interview Life and Times Series this year celebrates its author, Ama Ata Aidoo. She will be in conversation with Molara Wood. Word has it that a Yaba Badoe film will also be screened.
With one festival attendance under my belt, I feel better prepared and know what to expect. Even though, I did make a plan for last year’s festival, this one is more detailed. Now, you have a taste of what to expect come November from the Ake Festival, will you be coming along?
Are you looking to commission a write-up or images from any of the panel sessions and book chats mentioned above? Do send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org