By Nehru Odeh
Lola Shoneyin, poet, writer and Director, Ake Arts and Book Festival has said this edition of the Ake Arts and Books Festival, which kicked off yesterday is an emotional one for her. She made this known Thursday, 24 October, 2019, while welcoming guests to the four-day annual arts and books festival at the Alliance Francaise/Mike Adenuga Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“This edition of Ake estival is an emotional one for me. Over the last 10 years I have listened to so many conversations, where I would say to myself I wish my daughters were here listening to this. And this year I was finally able to make it happen. You know, when people are talking about feminism, women health and gender, I would wish they were here listening to this…So I am really proud to be able to invite my own children to this safe space where I have over the years invited other peoples’ sons and daughters,” she explained.
Shoneyin, visibly impressed with how far the festival has gone, having organized it for the past seven years also said this year’s fiesta, which has as its theme Black Bodies, Grey Matter, will address our Africaness, our blackness, our negritude and will also be tackling the issue of mental health. She also noted that this edition has more creatives – writers, thinkers, film makers, poets, photographers, artistes – from more African countries than the Ake festival has ever had..
“And our discussion of the theme for 2019 naturally brought some very important issues to the fore. And they became clearer and clearer as we discuss them. But we cannot and should not ignore the scars of our not so distant history or even those of our present realities. In act before it becomes too temporarily distant we think it is important that we take another look at the creativities that have been born of those physical and mental scars. … Perhaps the problem will help us better understand who we are or who we can become,” she maintained.
Shoneyin also said though she may sound openly optimistic, she is confident that one thing she can take out of the festival is the central hope, the understanding that great things happen when committed creative people get together.
“As each year goes by I have immense and not so secret pleasure of watching seeds that are planted at Ake festival grow, of seeing friendship blossom or hearing about individuals gathering together and starting something new somewhere else. So it is a positive thing, a forward looking thing. But first let us look at ourselves again as we move forward with optimism,” she noted, adding that people often comment on the Ake festival energy and how. No matter where we are, this energy remains the same. That is because it has never been about physical space. It has always been about the people … I think this energy has to do with the fact that we are open, that we are not afraid of our vulnerability.”
Shoneyi also used the opportunity to thank Sterling Bank Plc for sponsoring the festival. “I would like to thank Sterling Bank from the bottom of my heart. I would like to thank my brother Abubakar Suleiman whom I love very dearly … People in the arts were applying to Goethe Institute, British Council, The French Cultural Institute, which is great. … But what I wanted was for this festival to be primarily funded by an indigenous company.”
She also expressed her appreciation to Alliance Francaise “or sharing this stunning new premises with us” as well as other corporate organizations that supported this year’s edition of Ake festival. They include New Central TV, The Canadian High Commission, AWDF, OSIWA, The Fate Foundation, Orijin, Nikon, Vlisco , Annoying Logo and Kryolan.
It was, indeed, an evening of poetry, music dance, goodwill messages tributes, merriment and laughter. Temmie Ovwasa and Efe paul Azino wowed the audience with music and spoken word poetry respectively; while Ochai Ogaba put up a thrilling, energetic dance performance.
Dignitaries who gave goodwill messages included Charles Courdent, Director, Alliance Francaise/Mike Adenuga CENTRE; Abubakar Suleiman, MD/CEO, Sterling Bank; Aruna Amirthanayagam, US Embassy; Amy Galigan, Acting Canadian High Commission; and Becky Muikia, Director, Programme and Content and News Central.