Study in Ogun Schools, Nigeria

Ake Arts and Book Festival: Maiden Edition


The maiden Ake Arts and Book Festival themed ‘The Shadow of Memory’ ended last Sunday with guests commending its programming and organisatio.

THE festival was amazing. Lola Shoneyin [Festival Director] has done a great thing. It had everything. It was a true writers’ festival,” writer Molara Wood said while appraising the recently concluded Ake Arts & Book Festival held in Abeokuta, Ogun State, from November 18 to 24.

British journalist and writer, Michaela Wrong, author of ‘It’s Our Turn to Eat’ concurred with Wood. “I have never been to Abeokuta, this is my first trip and it’s a chance for me to see a different part of the country.  I have been to Kaduna, Kano, Abuja and Lagos but I’ve never been here. I’m pleased to be here. I know you have other book festivals in Nigeria but this appears more international and it’s good because there is a lot of writing coming out from West Africa.”

It was indeed an international gathering and homecoming of sorts for a number of Nigerian writers and academics in the Diaspora. Teju Cole, author of ‘Open City’, the critic, Ikhide Ikheloa and 2013 Caine Prize winner, Tope Folarin, who incidentally hails from Abeokuta but is not familiar with the city, were all in town.

Canada-based academic, Pius Adesanmi, associate professor at University of Davis, California, Wale Adebanwi and actress Adepero Oduye from the US were also at the festival. Their counterparts living in the country were not left out. Ayodele Olofintuade, Abubakar Imam, Victor Ehikhamenor, Remi Raji, Wale Okediran, Kunle Ajibade, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, Abraham Oshoko, Igoni Barrett and a host of others also participated in the festival.

The foreign participants included Ghanaian Caine Prize finalist, Mamle Kabu, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Binyavanga Wainana, Muthoni Garland, Doreen Baigana and Syl Cheney Coker from Sierra Leone.

Though the festival got down to brass tacks on Thursday evening with a cocktail for guests and with representatives of Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun on hand to welcome them, it started on Monday with various events.

One of these was the four-day children art workshop facilitated by Temitayo Ogunbiyi. She and the students selected from schools in and around Abeokuta had fun working inside the grand exhibition hall where festival’s ‘Nigeria Now Exhibition of Contemporary Nigerian Art’ also held. The labours of their sweat-interesting works done in various mediums were later displayed for guests.

The contemporary exhibition of Nigerian art featuring 10 artists and sponsored by the World Bank was also unique and enlightening. “All of the artists in this exhibition have taught me something about the nature of this amazing country called Nigeria- from small windows into private worlds to their commentary on national or global issues. Their work challenges us to ‘see’ things in different ways. They speak to cultures and experiences, to development challenges and aspirations, to devastation and hope, to the interplay between local and global experiences, and ultimately to the links between the past, present and future,” noted Caroline Sage, Senior Social Development Specialist of the World Bank present throughout the festival.

The artworks, comprising mostly paintings and installations, were made by 10 artists including Ayoola Gbolahan, Alimi Adewale, Bob Nosa Uwagboe, Segun Aiyesan, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Tyna Adebowale, Uche Uzorka, Victor Ehikhamenor, Victoria Udondian and Jerry Buhari.

But the children’s art workshop was not the only event for the young during the festival.  They also had the opportunity of being mentored by some of the writers who visited their schools.  While Teju Cole and some others were at African Church Grammar School, Paula Sofowora, Chibundu Onuzo and Ikhide Ikheloa read to students of Abeokuta Girls Grammar School.

The 200 undergraduates given a voucher of N20, 000 each to buy books by the Ekiti and Ogun State Governments happily went about picking books while secondary school students from Lagos and Ogun State were also part of the book chats and discussions.

On Tuesday evening, guests were treated to sketches from Professor Wole Soyinka’s latest play, ‘Alapata Apata’ directed by Tunde Awosanmi of the University of Ibadan. The evening also witnessed the presentation of Soyinka’s ‘Power Hydropus & Other Toxic Mutations’ and ‘Interventions’.

Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, were among dignitaries at the event. The cultured governor interacted with the writers and later took a group photograph with them. Culture activist and former Editor of Sunday Guardian, Jahman Anikulapo, also engaged Kongi on the works in an interesting conversation before the session ended.

The stage adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s ‘The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives’ by Rotimi Babatunde was the second play staged at Ake. UK-based director, Femi Elufowoju directed the play rated by guests.

Books, the centrepiece of the festival were not left out in the scheme of things. There were a number of interesting book chats and discussions. Wood (Indigo), Barrett (Love is Power or Something Like That), Adesanmi (You Are Not a Country), Nwokolo (How to Spell Naija) and General Godwin Alabi-Isama (Tragedy of Victory) were among writers who discussed their works with the audience.

‘The Space In Between: After the Struggle Before Democracy’ featuring Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Executive Editor of the News Magazine, Kunle Ajibade, civil rights activist, Ayo Obe and presidential aide, Ken Saro-Wiwa,  offered insights into what transpired before General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over power to civilians in 1999.

But the most attended session was the ‘In the Shadow of Memory: An Audience with Wole Soyinka’ featuring four undergraduates held on Saturday. It was a lively session where the Nobel Laureate answered questions on his muse, activism, religious views, the Pyrates Confraternity and affection for wine. (Watch out for the full report of the session next week).

The most beautiful thing about the festival was that Shoneyin and her team delivered on their promise of making it about books and the arts. If you missed out this year, don’t worry. The second edition holds from November 19 to 23, 2014.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

December 3, 2013 |

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