|Rasak-Oyadiran Opeyemi (second left)|
I live in Abeokuta, was born and bred there and I happen to have a relationship with it that is not very unlike the one I have with my old pajamas. Warm, baggy, very comfortable, worn out with memories and beautifully uninteresting. Then AKE happened and it was hellooo! Victoria secret lingerie.
And so it came to pass that on November 18 2014, I breezed into the June 12 Cultural Centre, baseball cap on head, body bag on arm and tongue fully in cheek. I was getting registered when I received a text from a friend letting me know he and the others were at the bookstands, I hadn’t seen my inner circle in a while, this festival was getting me drunk on joy already.
Walking down the lobby, I recognized a couple of virtual friends, some of us walked up to each other, peered at one another’s nametags and exchanged hugs and delighted squeals. I did find my friends later huddled together in a circle with some unfamiliar and vaguely familiar faces, having a debate on books and their film adaptations. Ibukun Adeeko, friend and mentor wrapped me up in a comical bear hug and introduced the others to me, we all got off to a great start.
The vibes and the energy in the air with so many writers, art lovers and readers from all the country and outside was great and yours truly basked in it like a lizard in the sun. Lola Shoneyin, the festival director was all over the place seeing things were going on smoothly and reminding us of next events, I would have missed some panels but for her, amazing woman. The guys and I were soon joined by Sueddie Vershima Agema and Agatha Aduro and I learnt that Amu Nnadi, a brilliant prolific writer and father of many Facebook children, was around. I went off to pay homage and was glad to find he was just as witty, kind and sweet as he was online.
An informal reading was soon organized and writers, both established and upcoming sat round and shared some of their works. My dear dear Gbenga Adesina, poet, essayist, friend and mentor called at this point to announce his arrival and it took restraint not to dance around the chairs. Amu Nnadi, when about to do his reading, called me out and sat me in the middle of the circle then read me Osa, my favorite poem in one of his collections. I think I died a little bit.
The screening of Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 came next, it was a beautiful work and I was particularly impressed by Kehinde Bankole and Kayode Olaiya’s performances, sheer genius.
Day 2 and the festival was in full swing, I was blown away at the Mutation and Mutilation; Feminism in Africa panel discussion, Bisi Adeleye Fayemi was endearing as she dropped f -bombs at will. The book chat on Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods Inc. moderated by Kola Tunbosun followed. I was gratified to find Okey was as fascinating as his works and there was the Literature for Africa’s Children where I spent a lot of time gawking at Nnedi Okorafor’s dreadlocks and laughing at Ayodele Olofintuade’s repartees. I rounded up my day at the bookstands stocking up my library and admiring the various dreadlocks I saw being sported tastefully. Stocking up my library will later teach me a lesson. A not-so-good one.
Day 3 was back-to-back excitement with Chude Jideonwo’s book chat moderated by Patrick Okigbo, the Religion, Education and the Menace of Violence panel discussion where E.E Sule, a panelist suggested the abolishment of religion in Nigeria for a while, followed by Zukiswa Wanner’s book chat moderated by the classy Molara Woods. Then the big highlight of the day, the panel discussion with ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. Shey you know our ex-president is an author too? *smiles* The panel was moderated by Patrick Okigbo. Issues ranging from Baba childhood, his time in the military, the civil war and the current administration which he rated below average. When asked about his view on homosexuality, the ex-president said he was a conservative and that the practice was an abomination. Mini hell danced on social media. Pro-gay attendees went on twitter and pronounced him a homophobe. Come see drama. Hen eh! Later in the evening, the 2015 Caine Prize judges were announced to the applause of many and Writivism collections were launched. Yeah, that was one good thing about being there. We got the news before everyone.
And my facebook friend and real life tormentor, Noah Oladele finally made his appearance on Day 3 and we traded jibes, our very style of friendliness.
---Account Went Red---
I started the final day with the Poisonous Gas; The Crude Politics of Oil in West Africa panel discussion which featured Rotimi Amaechi as one of the panelists and anchored by Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, then went to the Poets Anonymous panel which was very titillating and featured the poets on the panel reading some works. I gawked and reveled in the presence of Professor Wole Soyinka. Jerome Okole moderated the chat and Wole Soyinka with his shock of white air, regaled us with tidbits of his relationship with Olusegun Obasanjo, Femi Banjo and his clashes with the military government among others. An autograph session followed.
|Rasak-Oyadiran Opeyemi (right)|
The Palm wine and Poetry session was a befitting way of ending the festival. Sublime poetry was read and performed by acclaimed poets like Jumoke Verissimo, Efe Paul-Azino, Kei Miller, Amu Nnadi and more, a guitar player whose soulful voice captured ears and hearts almost stole the night and all these went down while the audience downed palm wine in pretty little calabashes. Barbeque and dancing followed later in the night with writers showing off their dance skills and party spirits. But some writers can dance sha. And some…issokay.
I was really excited about all the new books I was getting. Amu Nnadi gifted me his entire collections! Sueddie gave me a discount on his books, all autographed too! Did I mention that I took pictures with Kunle Afolayan, shared boiled groundnuts with Victor Ehikhamenor and almost stole Okey Ndibe’s pen when he signed my copy of Foreign God Inc? My ‘famzing’ antenna was going crazy! I however wasn’t excited about the fried rice that was always finished whenever I got to the caterers. I take fried rice very seriously. My future husband had better know o.
Nnamdi had tried in between panels to teach me Igbo but all I got was how to say ‘we are going downstairs’ for the panel discussion. Thanks Nnam! There was a time when Wole Soyinka walked past me and I thought ‘if only I could just touch his cotton shirt, perhaps I could be filled with the brilliance too’ get it?
I left that night after exchanging contacts and long hugs with a heavy heart. There was Amu Nnadi and his charm, Nur’ayn Ali Balogun with his wit, Adeola Opeyemi and her smile, Mimi Adebayo, Tolu Daniel and his hugs, Nnamdi Anyandu with his bubbly spirit and many other fabulous people. I had new determinations and goals. The Ake Book and Arts Festival was a breath of air so fresh, y’all should come over next year and breathe.
And Yes. My account went red. Bought books like they were food and clothes. What does that make me?
- · Rasak-Oyadiran Opeyemi is a poet, essayist and short story writer. She loves the colour brown, books, great music and the stage. She aspires one day to be a Jill of all trades and share drinks with Zadie Smith and Ben Okri but in the meantime is chasing a law degree.