A Day at Aké By Oluwadeaduramilade Tawak

I was very excited about going for Aké Art and Book Festival in Abeokuta this year. Every year before this, something always happened. The first time, I was in the hospital – malaria and typhoid. The second time, I was working – an attempt to keep myself busy during the holidays. This was my third try. Third time’s the charm. No?

I applied to volunteer, but I wasn’t selected which broke my heart. But, I have amazing friends and they made plans and I was ready for Aké by October. I couldn’t wait for November to arrive.

We Need New Critics:Observations from an Ake Festival Panel by AYODEJI ROTINWA

A literary festival panel can be a spectator sport. This was the case at the 2016 edition of Ake Festival - Nigeria's (and arguably Africa's) most glamorous week-long art & books gathering. Glamorous, because it attracts big names in literature, intellectuals, thinkers - not only on the continent, but in the world. Naturally, where stars are, admirers - or fans - will follow.

As Ake Festival neared its climax, it staged one of its biggest panels yet. To the left was famed, garlanded and acclaimed writer, Teju Cole.

Panel Discussion: Historical Fiction, the long hand of memory in Africa By Lucia Edafioka

Panelists: Laila Lalami, Jennifer Makumbi, Odafe Atogun

Moderator: Kinna Likimani

Laila Lalami is the author of The Moor's Account, a historical fiction book based on the life of a black slave who was on an expedition with some Spaniards. He was the first black person to cross over to the New World from Africa. She said she was drawn to the story when she found out about the black slave who was totally erased from the story she had been taught in school.

Exploring Horror Fiction in Africa By Enajite Efemuaye

Panelists: 'Pemi Aguda, Geoff Ryman

I don’t like horror because it is about scaring people and scaring people is a way of controlling people. – Geoff Ryman

Speculative fiction covers a wide range of writing: science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and horror. For a lot of African writers, genre is almost often not quite the target but telling stories. And so there is a lot of fiction crossing over from one genre to another.

Exhuming the Author: How the Media Approaches New Writing By Enajite Efemuaye

Panelists: Kola Tubosun, James Murua, Anote Ajeluorou

Moderator: Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

An important thing for writers is how they and their work engage with their audience and one of the ways this happens is via the media.

The panel which was moderated by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo was made up of journalist Anote Ajeluoruo, Kenyan blogger James Murua and linguist/poet Kola Tubosun.

The panel discussion began with a poem by Kola Tubosun who read an adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation.

A lot of the discussion revolved around how the actions of an author or who they are affects how their work is received and handled by media.

Panel discussion: Prison Stories and Literature of Resistance By Lucia Edafioka

Panelist- Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kunle Ajibade

Moderator- Molara Wood

Prison Stories and Literature of Resistance was the first panel for the last day of the 2016 Ake Festival.

To set the tone of the discussion, moderator Molara Wood, introduced both panellists who had been imprisoned by authoritarian governments- Prof Ngugi was imprisoned by Jomo Kenyatta for his writings, Kunle Ajibade was imprisoned by one of Nigeria’s most cruel dictators, Sani Abacha for being part of a coup to topple his government and they read excerpts from the their prison memoirs.

Book Chat- Known and Strange Things, Chibok Girls - Lucia Edafioka

Authors- Teju Cole, Helon Habila

Moderator- Kadaria Ahmed

The Cinema Hall at Kuto Cultural Centre was packed full for the book chat between two of Nigeria’s finest authors, Teju Cole and Helon Habila. The chat which was moderated by Kadaria Ahmed, a renowned journalist, was on the newly released books by both authors.

The books – Known and Strange things and Chibok Girls are nonfiction work by both authors. While Teju Cole’s book is a collection of essays, Helon Habila’s described his book as long form journalism which was compiled into a book.

Discussions on the books began with Teju Cole who had written an essay on the Chibok girls’ kidnap. Kadaria Ahmed asked why Teju Cole wrote the essay and why the essay had no additional information that wasn’t already available on the kidnap of the girls.

Legs Open, Eyes Closed: Sensuality in New Africa Writing - Lucia Edafioka

Panelists- Chinelo Okparanta, Toni Kan, Kiru Taye, Nana Darkoa

Moderator- Kolade Arogundade

This panel was one of the most looked-forward-to panels in this year’s festival and the turnout for the panel which held in the chat room was one of the largest since the start of the festival.

The Legs Open, Eyes Closed:  Sensuality in New Africa Writing panel opened with Kolade Arogundade asking the panellists why they started writing romance, sex, and erotic fiction.

Book Chat: The Moors Account, The Maestro Magisterate and The Mathematician-IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Author: Laila Lalami, Tendai Huchu

Moderator: Zukiswa Wanner

Zukiswa Wanner moderated the book chat on Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s account and Tendai Huchu’s The Mestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician.

Starting with the identity of the Mustafa, the central character in her novel, Laila said “I see identity as something that is fluid.” She spoke of often getting the question “What are you, not who are you.” And how that shows people “trying to figure out what is your actual national origin.”

History in Fiction: Book Chat with NoViolet Bulawayo and Jennifer Makumbi - Enajite Efemuaye

I use history as a way to tell my story but when history is standing in the way, I twist it. – Jennifer Makumbi

We Need New Names was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and won the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Fiction in the same year. Kintu is being hailed as the great Ugandan novel, and at the book chat with the writers of book books you could easily tell why.  The love and work and sweat that went into the writing of both novels was evident in the way they spoke of their books.

From the Land of the Flame Lily: New Fiction from Zimbabwe - Enajite Efemuaye

Panelists: Tendai Huchu, Panashe Chigumadzi, NoViolet Bulawayo

Moderator: Ranka Primorac

Following their presence on different panels, three Zimbabwean writers came together in a discussion to talk about their work and country.

Tendai Huchu, NoViolet Bulawayo and Panashe Chigumadzi sat with Ranka Promorac as moderator who set the ball rolling by asking the panelists how the past fifty years of Zimbabwe’s history impacted them as writers.

“To ask me to exclude the things in the country I was born is asking too much, it is my reality,” Tendai said. “Zimbabwe for the past 200 years is a particularly interesting place and it was only natural for my imagination to reside in Zimbabwe,” Panashe added. She revealed that while her family had left Zimbabwe when she was three to live in South Africa, she never stopped being Zimbabwe partly because her father kept her country alive for her and being Zimbabwean in South Africa sort of made her stand apart.

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