Thursday 22 January 2015

A snapshot of the Ake Festival 2014 in Nigeria by James Murua

The Ake Arts & Books Festival was hosted in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria from 18-22 November.
The festival was organised by Lola Shoneyin and her team and if this list is anything to go by they successfully gathered a large crowd of very cool artists at the literary festival.

L-R Lola Shoneyin, Governor Ibikunle Amosu, First Lady of Ogun State and Ogun State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism 

And I couldn't find a single complaint from the guests which for a bloggeratti like myself was a bit disconcerting, as controversy is my lifeblood; drama and mishaps are the things that drive traffic. None seemed to be forthcoming and for this I (reluctantly) salute the team.
The festival, supported by the governor of Abeokuta State Ibikunle Amosu and his administration, hosted many events:

There were films and plays galore for those who wanted to experience the written word acted by thespians who knew their craft. There was no Nollywood type fare, of ghosts looking left and right before crossing the road or mermaids with brooms for the tails, on offer.

Nollywood mermaid fare

The films and documentaries were from the likes of Yeepa a filmed play by Tunde Kelani and October 1 by Kunle Afolayan and The Art of Ama Ato Aido by Yaba Badoe. Then there were plays like Qudus: My Exile is in my Head and a musical Call Mr. Robeson.
This blog is not dedicated to all the arts but rather it focuses on literature from the continent and there was a lot on offer in this respect for those lucky folks in Abeokuta State.

There were book chats with authors like Okey Ndibe, Nnedi Okorafor, Zukiswa Wanner, Nike Campbell-Fatoki, Yejide Kilanko, Barnaby Philips, Chude Jideonwo. And Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria (1999-2007) who has several memoir type books to his name.
There was the launch of Beverly Nambozo's poetry anthology A Thousand Voices Rising. And also in the house was Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka who we are all celebrating as he goes through Soyinka @ 80.

There were many panel discussions where authors of prose and poetry discussed such topics as Mutation and Mutilation: Feminism in Africa, What are publishers looking for in fiction, Poisonous Gas: The Crude Oil Politics in West Africa and many more.
There were also important announcements.

The Caine Prize for African writing, of which Lizzy Attree is Director, unveiled their 2015 judging panel to the public and they are Zoë Wicomb, Zeinab Badawi, Neel Mukherjee, Cóilín Parsons and Brian Chikwava.

The Writivism team (Dami Ajayi, Zukiswa Wanner, Lizzy Attree and Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire) announced the list of ladies and gentlemen who could be the new faces of African writing. They will be attending workshops in different African cities run by Dilman Dila (Kampala), Zukiswa Wanner and Anne Ayeta Wangusa (Dar es Salaam), Yewande Omotoso and Saaleha Idrees Bamjee (Johannesburg), Dami Ajayi (Lagos), Donald Molosi and Lauri Kubuitsile (Gaborone).
As an East African the announcement closest to my heart was that of the new Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili prize for African Writing, a brainchild of Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree. The new award promotes writing in African languages and encourages translation from, between and into African languages.  Prizes will be awarded for the best entry of an unpublished book or manuscript, prose or poetry in the Kiswahili language.  Very cool.

After the whole conference, without any drama to tout I sadly add, the evening ended on Saturday with a shebang that was so loud (maybe the neighbours complained hopefully?) we could hear the stomping of feet to Dorrobucci from Nairobi where we were mourning the “mauling” of Arsenal by Man United. And some other more national matters.

Here's a link to James Murua's original blogpost:
Here are a few other views from the people who were actually there:
Here are some images from the festival events, courtesy of the artists and the organisers:

Beverley Nambozo launches the anthology A Thousand Voices Rising

(right) Nnedi Okarofor

(left) Okey Ndibe

L-R Lola Shoneyin and First Lady of Abeokuta State Mrs Folusho Amosun

Olisakwe Ukamaka

L-R Eghosa Imasuen, Zukiswa Wanner and Jekwu Ozoemene

(left) Mukoma Wa Ngugi