Unlike other visitors, my AkeFest15 experience started much earlier. It was one of those nights when nothing substantial was trending on Twitter and one was left with nothing but to stalk fine girls and tweet away. But then a user retweeted a tweet from @akefestival about the upcoming festival. Prior to that i hadnt heard about the festival. A visit to the website hooked me and i knew this was something i wanted to be part of. I registered and I was in fact the first person to do so. Although not a big deal in itself, being the first to register made me feel special. I won four free books which further sparked my interest. My countdown to the festival must have rivaled that of the organizers.
And so when the likelihood of my project defense being fixed for the 19th, 20th or 21st of November i almost died, i shuddered at the thought of missing the festival. But the god of the arts intervened; i had my project defense on 18th November- just in time for the general sessions which started on the 19th. Lucky me you’d say?
#AkeFest15 First Impression
Drums heralded our arrival at the cultural center- venue of the festival. Being my first time, i only had a vague idea of what to expect but lola shoneyin’s opening speech gave me a fair insight. The array of invited guests also confirmed my suspicion that i was in for something profound.
My first session was surreal. I sat across Taiye selasi, EC Osondu and Chris Abani- established authors whose works I’ve read and adored from a distance. What struck me was the equal level of engagement between these writers and their audience- #AkeFest15 was a leveler in this regard. The highlight of the first day for me was the documentary on climate change. I have since declared my unflinching loyalty to terra firma and the need to preserve her for generations unborn.
Oh mona! Mona my mona!
Mona Elthahawy was my #AkeFest15 most valuable player. Her fieriness, passion and humour got me. Oh mona could say fuck you with a straight face and not blink. I love mona, you should too 🙂
This mildly satirical play was my favorite meal in the #AkeFest15 banquet. Carefully laced with humour the play dabbled into relevant issues facing African women. Joke Silva’s line “It’s not everything that is smaller than you that you’re bigger than” is one i would never forget. The small chops we all gobbled up huddling around rotund tables in the well illuminated gallery before the play was heavenly too.
Lola shoneyin LS for short is a phenomenal woman. LS is evidence of the inherent ability of nigerian women to organize things. From owanbe parties to book festivals and everything in between. First time i saw her was at the teslim balogun stadium during the buhari-osinbajo campaign but i didn’t know her then even though she was standing right in front of me, a barricade separating us. But thankfully no barricade separated us at the festival. What struck me about LS was the fact that she was not carried away by the plethora of activities at #AkeFest15. i saw her on several occasions listening with rapt attention in the sessions.
So to LS, Seun Mabo, the entire book buzz team and sponsors you guys rock.
#AkeFest15 bridged the gap between writers and readers/ rulers and the ruled to the point of eliminating it. Who could talk about distance with the reciprocal level of engagement witnessed at the festival? Not only were these writers and thinkers present during their sessions, almost all were present the entire duration of the festival thus resulting in a highly intellectual gathering. I believe other parts of Nigeria must have experienced scarcity of intellectuals because we were all at #AkeFest15
The sincerety with which issues were discussed also impressed me. Not the usual hypocritical, veiled and behind the curtain discussion Nigerians are used to. We talked about Sex, Vaginas, LGBT issues, religion, climate change and governance not just to tick the box, but because we were passionate about these issues. We truly engaged the fringe.
Would i attend AkeFest16?
And so when i saw this question while filling out the appraisal form i laughed. My reply was simple- And the year after and after. I wont miss this pilgrimage for anything…..