High expectations as Ngugi wa Thiong’o headlines 2016 Ake Arts & Book Festival

The fourth edition of the festival featuring the author of  Weep Not, Child and several other writers and thinkers, is packed with literature, music, film and poetry


THE recession notwithstanding, the beat will go on sweetly at the 2016 Ake Arts and Book Festival (AABF) from Tuesday till Sunday at the Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, with literary icon and Kenyan novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, headlining it.

The writer, one of those in contention for the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature (since awarded to Bob Dylan) will be joined by over 50 other class acts at the festival with the theme ‘Beneath the Skin.’

It will be a unique opportunity for Nigerian fans of the Kenyan professor to know more about his life and his creative worldview as he will be sitting in conversation with writer, Okey Ndibe, during the newly introduced ‘Life and Times Series’ segment of the festival.

Some of the other writers who will join the 78-year-old author at the festival where exciting genres including erotica, horror fiction, and prison stories will be explored include Teju Cole, Helon Habila, Adebola Rayo, Kingsley Moghalu, Kinna Likimani, Alain Mabanckou and Aisha Osori.

“We have been trying to bring him for the last two years until finally this year, so no worries. He will be here,” founder of the Book Buzz Foundation which organises the festival, Lola Shoneyin, assured at a meeting with journalists on Wednesday.

She added that given the state of the economy, “it is nothing short of a miracle that we are able to pull off this event this year. The challenges of last year were nothing compared to that of this year but we are determined to put up a first class event, with first class guests for first class audiences.”

Book chats, an integral part of the festival remains on the menu with nine scheduled for this edition. It will feature 18 authors including Alain Mabanckou, Helon Habila, Laila Lalami, Petina Gappah, Teju Cole, Panashe Chigumadzi, Tendai Huchu, Chinelo Okparanta, Noviolet Bulawayo, Jowhor Ile, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Odafe Atogun, Tade Thompson and Toni Kan amongst others.

There will also be over 10 panel discussions featuring new and established writers who will focus on identities, race, gender, mental health in fiction and the rise and the fall of African economies. One of these tagged ‘Prison Stories and Literature of Resistance’ will feature Kunle Ajibade, Chris Anyanwu and Ngugi wa Thiong’o with Molara Wood moderating.  Another interesting one is ‘Legs Open, Eyes Closed: Sensuality In New African Writing’ featuring Chinelo Okparanta, Toni Kan, Kiru Taye and Nana Darkoa. Sam Umukoro will moderate.

Three workshops will hold before the curtains fall on the festival on November 19. Noviolet Bulawayo, Helon Habila and Sarah Ladipo Manyika will facilitate one on fiction writing; Inya Lawal and Victoria Thomas of The Story Republic will take the class on script writing while Sebastian Loerscher takes graphic short stories.

Apart from the book and intellectual aspect of the festival; films, a stage drama, poetry, visual arts and music are also on the menu.

The two art exhibitions that will run for the duration of the festival will showcase works of Laolu Senbanjo whose ‘Sacred Art of the Ori’ featured on Beyonce’s latest album ‘Lemonade’ and Fatima Abubakar who captures the lives of the people of Borno State in a stunning series of photographs, showing that Boko Haram can never conquer a people’s indomitable spirit.

The music concert will feature Brymo, Falana and Adunni  Nefertiti  while the festival  film is the documentary ‘Hissene Habre: A Chadian Tragedy’ which chronicles  the horror inflicted on the Chadian people during ex-president Hissene Habre’s bloody reign. After the screening, Olaokun Soyinka will interview President, Chadian Victim’s Association, Clement Abaifouta.

Three short films are to be premiered during Ake. They are ‘A Mother’s Journey’ by Sade Adeniran; ‘No Good Turn’ by Udoka Oyeka; and ‘Salt’ by Umar Turaki.

This year’s stage play is ‘Iyalode of Eti’, an adaptation of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ by Debo Oluwatuminu. The play being staged in Africa for the first time will be directed by Moji Kareem.

Before the festival closes on Saturday evening with the palm wine and poetry event coordinated by Remi Raji and featuring Titilope Sonuga, Lebo Mashile, Ogaga Ifowodo, Micheal Kelleher and Dike Chukwumerije, there will a tour to the Olumo Rock and mentoring sessions with secondary school students in Ogun State by the writers.