Kenyan novelist and essayist Ngugi wa Thiong’o is in Nigeria for the 4th Ake Arts and Books Festival (15-19 November). As this year’s most accomplished guest writer, the Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature “will sit in conversation with Okey Ndibe about his life and works,” according to a press statement by the organisers, Book Buzz Foundation. “He will also be talking about his latest book Birth of a Dreamweaver.”
Ngugi was recently in the news after the Nobel Committee announced musician Bob Dylan as winner of its high profile literature prize last October. Many commentators in Africa and elsewhere believed that the African literary giant deserved it more; needless to say that the topic will feature during the conversations at the festival.
Incidentally, Ake Festival holds in Abeokuta (SW Nigeria), where Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka lives when he is in Nigeria; he has visited the festival every year since the initial edition in 2013 and chances are that he will make an appearance this year too.
Prof Soyinka has also been in the news following the November 8 election of Donald Trump as President-Elect of the United States of America. He was quoted to have said he would rip his Green Card in shreds if the Republican candidate were to win. Though he has issued a statement in response to that widely circulated news, it is most likely going to be on the question sheets during the the five days of “cultural immersion”.
[Read wakaabout’s review of Ake Festival 2015]
Both Ngugi and Soyinka will be joined by hundreds of younger creative spirits from across Africa and in the Diaspora—writers, artists, filmmakers and musicians—to examine and discuss topics around the festival’s theme: “Beneath This Skin”, covering identity, race and individuality.
“One of the things we really want to do at Ake is to bring some of the finest authors making waves around the world or who have African origins and whose works show a lot of interest in Africa, or who show that they love Africa,” says Festival Director Lola Shoneyin during a press conference ahead of the opening day. “We are determined to put up a first-class event for our first-class audiences; and for those who have registered, we want to give them a time of their lives, and I feel proud that we are able to invite the caliber of creative Africans that we invite to Ake Festival.”
On the line up this year: four creative workshops, five film screenings, nine book chats which will feature 18 authors, among them Alain Mabanckou, Helon Habila, Teju Cole, Panashe Chigumadzi, Tendai Huchu, Chinelo Okparanta, Noviolet Bulawayo, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Odafe Atogun and Toni Kan; 12 panel discussions that will examine mental health in fiction and the rise and fall of African economies; two art exhibitions, featuring the culture-inspired works of Laolu Senbanjo (“Sacred Art of the Ori”) and documentary photographer Fatima Abubakar’s stirring images of the Northern Nigerian state of Borno, ruined over the years by Boko Haram.
“We will also explore exciting genres such as erotica, horror fiction, and prison stories coming out of Africa,” the statement adds. “We want to give more attention to genres that are not talked about much.”
In addition, there is to be an acoustic music concert with artists Brymo and Falana and the all-female group Adunni and Nefertiti.
From the outset, Ake has offered a highly stimulating location—the Ogun State Arts and Cultural Centre—for participants to talk and buy books of multiple genres; to watch astonishing stage productions; to view thought-provoking exhibitions; to shop for local crafts and enjoy music and rich servings of the local brew (“Palmwine and Poetry Readings”).
This year, however, a few new activities have been worked into the festival’s programming, including the premiere of a festival of short films, book parties and launches.
There’s going to be some of adventure too. “Part of the plan is that on Friday (17 November) afternoon we will all go on top of Olumo Rock, where some of our guests will read their poetry,” Shoneyin says, crediting the government of the host state for the priviledge. “We will also visit the Itoku/ Adire fabric market. We are trying to explore the tourist attractions around. I love the idea of Ake becoming the cultural hub for West Africa, a place where people come to connect with other creative people.”
Download the festival’s complete programme here.