The three-days of cultural feasting at the Ake Arts and Book festival may have ended but the literati would not forget its grand opening ceremony marked by celebratory drums, dance performances, music, poetry and loads of goodwill messages. Now in its 10th year, the festival was a treat buoyed by the energy of guests from different parts of the continent and indeed the world. The Founder, Ake Arts and Book Festival. Lola Shoneyin, in her opening remarks observed a moment of silence for all those who started the festival with then 10 years ago but did not live to see its tenth anniversary edition. She explained why ‘Homecoming’ was the appropriate theme for the festival.
“When it was time to choose a theme for Ake Festival 2022, I didn’t have to think too hard to decide on Homecoming. The justification for the theme was that we were going back to Abeokuta where it all began and that it was a time to reconnect with our ancestral roots. This is all true but the main reason why Homecoming was so perfect is that we couldn’t wait to have you back at Ake.”
In the same vein, the lead sponsors of the festival, Sterling Bank Plc has reiterated their support for the festival which was held at the Strong Tower Event Centre, Falomo, Ikoyi. The Executive Director, Sterling Bank Plc, Yemi Odubiyi disclosed this in a goodwill message at the opening ceremony.
“Nigeria enjoys a comparative advantage in the arts and culture domain and Sterling being focused on promoting the development of human capital and improving national competitiveness is thrilled to have been a part of the festival for the past six years and plans to continue to do so,’’ he said.
The session was followed by book chats with veteran journalist, scholar and author ‘Born in Black,’ French Howard and the author of Uncommon Wealth, Kojo Karam based on their latest literary offerings. The writers beamed light on the post-colonial relevance in their narratives about Africa and the urgent need for Africans to march towards decolonisation.
Another interesting session at the festival opening was the moment where an all-male panel comprising Nigerian rapper, MI born Jude Abaga, Nnamdi Elhuma, Derek Owusu and Ciku Kimeria spoke on vulnerability. While discussing the sub-theme “Navigating Vulnerability in a Macho World,’’ the panelists revealed how indigenous African culture and some aspects of popular culture might have fueled the spirit of machoism. During the audience participation part, a fan of MI questioned how he intends to change public perspective through his music despite having a portfolio of works that celebrate masculine ego. MI, in response, laid bare his dilemma as an artist to stay true to his transformed inner self and the need to simply entertain the public with outrageous lyricism that is largely associated with the rap genre.
Brymo’s reverberating performance of ‘Olumo’ a song dedicated to Abeokuta, the ancestral roots of the festival thrilled the audience at the concert which featured iconic artists like the Waka Queen, Salawa Abeni, Bantu, Ria Sean, and Adunni Nefertiti.
One of the most captivating moments at the festival was the session hosted by Kunle Ajibade with the Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah as guest to discuss his new book ‘After Lives.’