Women and Spirituality

Panellists: Mona Eltahawy, Marta Celestino

Moderator: Olaokun Soyinka

“Yoruba is well connected to brazil”

These are the opening words of moderator Olaokun Soyinka in a panel with Ms. Marta Celestina, an Iyalorisha from Brazil and Mona Eltahawy, a feminist. The panel titled women and spirituality explores how different religions interfere with and affect women’s lives positively or negatively. The discussions centre about Abrahamic religions and the Candomble religion. Marta Celestina is a Candomble which is the Brazilian branch of the Yoruba traditional religion. She has been intitated for Ogun since 2001 and has been a Candomble devotee for most of her life. Mona Eltahawy, who introduces all her panels with the three words: fuck the patriarchy, is a freelance Egyptian-American journalist and Muslim feminist.

What’s new in African Feminisms:

Mona Eltahawy, Iheoma Obibi, Charmaine Pereira

Moderator: Hannah Azieb Pool

This panel was part of WOW - Women of the World Festival at Ake Arts & Book festival 

Fuck the Patriarchy:

These are the first words of Mona Eltahawy in an all-women’s panel on “What is new in African feminism?” moderated by Hannah Azieb Pool. It is how she starts all her panels, her motto. Mona continues this broad message with specific intense statements on feminism. Her voice is filled with excitement. You cannot miss the fact that this is something she is very passionate about. She starts with the premise that western feminism is failing and has failed and that this patriarchy commits crimes against our body. “I am going to America to rescue white women. They chose to elect a fascist fuck, Donald Trump and now, with the news of Harvey Weinstein, they are pretending like they do not know that this has always happened, that everything has not been solved. I go to places to say the things I am not supposed to say. Patriarchy tells us what to say. I am trying to dismantle it. They call me a slut and I own it but I am not defined by it. I am fighting the disillusion of western feminism as a feminist and a Muslim. No more pretence that western feminism has saved us. African Feminism is on the rise. We are fighting patriarchy whether it is tribal or religious. I fight the Muslim brotherhood, Christian brotherhood and the Hindu brotherhood”

Talking Sexual Violence: Victims & Violation

Panellists: Florida Uzoaru, Femi Oyebode, Kikelomo Woleosho

Moderator: Bim Adewunmi

“The issue of sexual violence is a public health issue – physical and mental health. We are aware of it but do not speak of it: the way society treats survivors and victims, the stigma, the structures to help survivors and victims.”

Bim Adewunmi starts the important conversation on talking sexual violence: victims and violation,  a panel with Femi Oyebode; professor of psychiatry, Kikelomo Woleosho: a photographer and writer who has a memoir on sexual abuse and Florida Uzoaru, co-creator of Slide Safe box, an innovative pack that provides STI test kits and emergency contraceptives.

How We Talk About Rape in Africa

Panelists: Pumla Gqola, Laure Beaufils, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi

Moderator: Timehin Adegbeye

The silencing rape panel pulled a crowd that filled the cinema hall. Timehin Adegbeye deftly navigated the conversation between the four panelists and there were tears in the audience. White woman said women were still property if not legally (a recent development) then psychologically. She urged men to have conversations, to be active participants in discussions on rape because no one seems to know who these rapists are. ‘Where are the men who rape?’ she asked ‘Every man says not me. Who is this rapist then? He must be very busy.’

Ouida Launch

The book launch was a celebratory affair anchored by Lola Shoneyin in the Herbert Ogunde hall at twilight. With pride, she introduced the four writers published by her imprint; Dami Ajayi who wrote A Woman’s body is a Country, Ayobami Adebayo who wrote Stay With Me, Hadiza El-Rufai who wrote An Abundance of Scorpions and Nnedi Okoroafor who wrote Who Fears Death. The crowd clapped and cheered as each writer climbed the stage in tandem to Lola reciting their achievements.

To hasten it up Lola asked each writer how they wrote their books. Nnedi said she wrote Who Fears Death the night her father died – she was in the room his body had been kept the night of the wake-keep and she was thinking about how the dead body before her looked nothing like her father when something rose from the body and entered her, something she felt could destroy the room. Her mom came in and asked her to leave the room and she started writing Who Fears Death that night.

Men Who Write Women

Ishmael Beah, Giles Foden, Toni Kan

Moderator: Zukiswa Wanner

The moderator, Zukiswa Wanner starts off the panel on men who write women by asking the three male panellists to read specific excerpts from their books. Toni Kan reads first from his new book, Carnivorous City. After the reading, she asks them specific contextual topics. For Toni Kan, she wants to know about Women and sexuality. He says: “Women know what they want but want you to do what you want to do. The women provide the anchor and the stories revolve around them in certain way.”

Financing the Creative Arts

Panelists: Ojoma Ochai, Tom Ilube, Henry Bassey

Moderator: Olaokun Soyinka

“If I get 30 seconds with the person who can fund my project, what am I going to say them”

Tom Ilube one of the panellists in the financing the creative arts panel begins his advice to a room full of creatives interested in knowing how they can access finance. He does not stop there. He goes on to emphasize the need for brevity in the summary of your funding need, and the importance of infusing your craft and creativity in your application for funding. Tom Ilube having worked in top executive positions in Banks in the United Kingdom and having pitched to 200 people and organizations, knows the ropes of financing and understands when he says to keep trying despite rejections. He says: “Your 30 seconds pitch must be one that will get them [sponsors] interested.” He tells about his elevator experience with a potential funder, in which he had no pitch for a project he needed funding for. He has since learned from this experience he says.

Directing Her Narrative; African Stories

Panelists: Sara Bletcher, Tope Oshin, Jade Osiberu

Moderator: Arit Okpo

This panel held in the chat room and was moderated by Arit Okpo. The discussion covered the difficulties in filmmaking as a woman, amongst other issues. Tope Oshin said to be taken seriously ‘your sponsors want to identify the message in your work, what you want them to support before releasing funds.’

The pressure of dealing with women issues using film as a medium was also brought up and Arit asked Sara Blecher for her reaction to her critics who ask why her work doesn’t deal with obvious women’s issues. Sara replied saying she was only interested in films she wanted to make, for example one of her films she made with the audience of one in mind; her daughter. She mentioned however, that making films with her female gaze mattered more because ‘I believe this would make the world a less violent place.’

Cross Country Conversations; From Lagos to Limbe

Goethe Institut

Emmanuel Iduma, editor of Saraba Magazine welcomed everyone to the Lagos to Limbe panel talk before introducing Dzekashu Macviban, editor of Bakwa Magazine, who continued the session by drawing political and literary similarities between Cameroon and Nigeria which he believed to be largely unexplored. Participants of the project were then asked to read excerpts from their work before opening the question and answers session.

When asked about a brief history of his work for the project Raoul Djimeli from Cameroon commented that he wrote French so this was his first attempt at non-fiction. When asked how he managed to preserve security of the people he talked about in his non-fiction he replied ‘ah me I don’t have that problem you see in my family I am the only one who writes and reads English. So I can write anything and my father would never know.’

What is a word?

Book Chat: Ayobami Adebayo (Stay With Me) & Yvonne Owour (Dust)

Moderator: Dami Ajayi

 

A word, Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, is “the copy of a nervous stimulation in sounds”. And perhaps we might hesitate to infer any finality of meaning, of truth, from something as uncommitted as the copy of a nervous stimulation?

Perhaps we should indeed, or what was one to make—what is one to make—of General Babangida’s iconoclastic appropriation of the word “president” in 1990s Nigeria? For Ayobami Adebayo, who burst into song at some point during her reading, this was a seminal moment in the Nigerian polity. Up till Babangida and indeed after him, Nigeria’s military rulers were known as Head of State. The military instinctively flinched from ascribing the implied legitimacy of “President” to itself. Legitimacy, as Zimbabwe has been proving in these past few days, is a word too. Were these leaders hoping to recast society in their likeness? Adebayo wondered.

For this book chat, the first of 2017’s Ake Festival, Adebayo was paired with Yvonne Oduor, author of Dust. Oduor’s native Kenya is currently coming to terms—once again—with the meaning of concepts: what is an election? “It's the continuation of all the elections we’ve never completed,” said Oduor. “Our dreams have been broken by home,” she continued later, now visibly emotional. “An ultimate and terrible betrayal.”

Ake Arts & Book Festival 2017

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