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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

@AKE: Green Tags and Memories by Miracle Adebayo

  • Read the first AKE series HERE

Miracle Adebayo (centre)
© Miracle Adebayo

If there’s something Ake 2014 taught me in the five days I was there, it was that an empty stomach is an enemy of the intellect.

Seriously, between the book chats and panel discussions and Master Classes, hunger was my constant companion. 

The first day was not a day of many activities; we had Master Classes running from 9am to 12pm. I attended the sci-fi Master Class which was spear-headed by the witty Mr Ben Aaronovitch- author of Rivers of London. 

When we took a break by 12pm, I was already restless. I went downstairs to find my friend and unofficial host, Tolu Daniel but unfortunately he had no good suggestion as to how to assuage the hunger. And considering this was my first time in Abeokuta, I definitely didn’t intend to waltz into any bukka to eat. So I went in to see Tunde Kelani’s Yeepa which turned out to be a good meal to stall the actual hunger.

Day two was when the guests began to arrive, the people-with-the-orange-tags, the ‘celebs’ of African writing. And that was when I saw first-hand the wonders of famzing. I think I should take a course in famzing soon because I totally could not keep up. Apart from the fact that I’m wary of crowds, I am also not so outgoing. It was a miracle I met Kate who became my informal partner in Ake. 

The real stuff started on the third day with the panel discussions and book chats. I opted for the panel discussion because I was looking forward to hearing more on Feminism.

One thing that would remain seared in my memory from Ake 2014 is not the dreary trip from Abuja to Abeokuta or the blankness that welcomed me as I stormed Abeokuta-well, not stormed per se because I came in quite humbly and fearfully - nor was it the way the venue of the festival buzzed with intellectual tension that one could cut through with a knife - no it wasn’t all these even though they made quite an impression on me. What would remain with me, what I would carry about with me  as a souvenir, is the green name tag that hung from our necks,  a name tag that read ‘Visitor', a name tag which would turn to a semi-curse for us in the days to come.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the colour green and absolutely nothing against the name tag; my problem was what they signified.

The green tag was a ticket to attend the panel discussions, book chats et al but at the same time it was what barred you from proceeding to the upper room for breakfast or dinner. So we were relegated to buying our meals at cutthroat prices. Yes, cutthroat! And at a point I wondered why we had registered for the festival with money if we didn’t get to be treated to at least one meal a day.

My favourite spot was the book stand; at a point when I realised I couldn’t buy as many books as I wanted to, I began to wish I could just lay my mat and sleep amidst the books. Bask in their ‘book-ness’. But instead when I felt alone, I took to strolling to the bookstands; touching and smelling them in a bid to alleviate my longing.

Friday was when I felt myself loosen up; I made new friends and reacquainted myself with Facebook friends. Still, I did a lot of quiet observation so I did not get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the people.

Miracle Adebayo and Ben Aaronovitch

Saturday was by far my favourite day. First off, the literary icon Wole Soyinka turned up with a fashion sense I couldn’t help admiring. He didn’t look a day over sixty with his collarless black shirt that made him look dainty. But kai! The man is handsome sha!

The discussion with Nnedi Okorafor, Hawa Golakai and Ben Aaronovitch about sci-fi in motion was one of the highlights of the festival for me. While they spoke, I suddenly felt like I was among kin. I didn’t feel like I was floating; an outsider looking in. 

The barbeque which crowned the festival was done in style and for once, our green tag was no obstruction to our inner gods. 

It was an experience worth having and in a way as I said goodbye to Abeokuta on Sunday, a strange sadness tugged at me and it dawned on me that I had created memories in a strange land; memories -whether good or bad - that would stay with me for a long time.

As I write this, I stare at my green tag with a smile. 


  • Miracle Adebayo is a recent graduate of Law who however prefers the insides of a library to the insides of a court room. She is an avid reader and prolific writer and you can read most of her works on her blog: Her favourite pastime is writing stories in her head with her imagination in full gear. She loves reading conspiracy stories mostly because she finds them too amazing to write.  Her major inspiration? God.



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