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Lola Shoneyin, the AABF mastermind

For those of us who were not invited or who could not attend, we experienced the 2013 Ake Arts and Book Festival (AABF) vicariously through tweets and Facebook updates.

For six days, writers, artists, bloggers, industry heavyweights, public school students, reporters, and book lovers from all over gathered in Abeokuta to experience what some are calling the book festival of the year.

“I have attended Book Festivals across continents from Kenya to the UK and Frankfurt and the US but none, and I mean none has impressed me like the Ake Book Festival.” — Toni Kan

Chimamanda Adichie was invited but could not attend due to prior commitments. Taiye Selasi was initially on the bill but pulled out two weeks before the event. Wole Soyinka, Teju Cole, Wainaina Binyavanga, Syl Cheney-coker are a few of the high-profile guests who graced the event.

Reviews have began to trickle in, so we are getting a better sense of what happened at the festival. Toni Kan’s diary in This Day Live and Olisakwe Ukamaka’s piece for The Nigerian Telegraph are excellent recaps.

Thanks to Ukamaka we know that:

Pa Ikhide is a pretty old dancer, what with the way he was throwing his hands in the air like we were still in the seventies. Lola Shoneyin twisted and rocked like she would win a competition. The black American with the heavy dreadlocks (I forget her name) was dancing Salsa even though the music was high-life. Teju Cole, dressed in his academic oversized coat and Papa’s cap, delivered a pastiche of quick jerks, clawing of the air and stomping. The air was heavy with laughter and music and food and alcohol. God looked down from heaven and everything was good.

The stage adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is one of the highlights of the festival. The 2012 Caine Prize winner Rotimi Babatunde  wrote the play. Femi Elufowoju Jr. directed it. We know from Toni Kan that “the hall [was] packed, almost, with everyone from students to celebrities like Funmi Iyanda and Ade Bantu. Wole Soyinka [was] also there as well as the King of Owu.”

Speaking of homecomings, Tope Folarin—the 2013 Caine Prize winner— visited Nigeria, for the first time in decades, as a guest speaker at the festival. I wonder what the experience was like for him.

By all accounts, Ake Festival was a book lover’s dream—a stream of conversation sessions and panels on burning questions regarding African writing,  a well-stocked bookstore, and the chance to meet some of the major voices in the contemporary African literary scene.

There was also a publisher’s speed-dating session, which I hope got someone a book deal. Master classes had aspiring writers learning from the some of the best on the continent.

Just from twitter updates—the photos shared, the stories of encounters, the reluctant goodbyes— I could sense the sweet, fuzzy feeling of artistic fellowship that held everyone spellbound while the festival lasted.

I’m pleased to share these photos from the festival. Thanks to Victor Ehikhamenor for taking such lovely photos and for letting me share them on Brittle Paper.



Akefestival Baba Segi Wives
Scenes from The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Akefestival Shoneyin
Lola Shoneyin, Author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wife
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Hanging out with public school students in Abeokuta
Akefestival Victor, artist and author of Excuse Me
Victor Ehikhamenor, Author of Excuse Me!
Akefestival Ikhide
Ikhide Ikheloa, critic/blogger
Akefestival Onuzo
Chibundu Onuzo, Author of The Spider King’s Daughter
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Christie Watson, Author of Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
Akefestival Wood
Molara Wood, Author of Indigo
Akefestival folarin
Tope Folarin, 2013 Caine Prize winner
Akefestival Teju Cole
Teju Cole, Author of Open City
Akefestival Iyanda
Funmi Iyanda, media personality/journalist
Akefestival Nwokolo
Chuman Nwokolo, Author of The Ghost of Sani Abacha
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Cast members of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
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Wainaina Binyavanga, Author of One Day I Will Write About This Place
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Igoni Barrett, Author of Love is Power, or Something Like That
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Olisakwe Ukamaka, Author of Eyes of a Goddess

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(R to L) Tolu Ogunlesi, Prof. Remi Raji-Oyelade, Pius Adesanmi

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(R-L) Ugoma Adegoke, Syl Cheney-Coker, Victor Ehikhamenor
(R-L) Ugoma Adegoke, Syl Cheney-Coker, Victor Ehikhamenor
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Eghosa Imasuen, Author of Fine Boys
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Wole Soyinka
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Sitawa Namwalie, Author of Cut Off My Tongue
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(middle) Wana Udobang (c) Attic Photography
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(right) Adenrele Sonariwo (Middle) Victor Ehikhamenor (left) Myne Whitman
Àyọdélé Morocco-Clarke and Tolu Ogunlesi
Àyọdélé Morocco-Clarke and Tolu Ogunlesi

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(right) Marlon James, Author of The Book of Night Women
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Team #AABF
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Muthoni Garland, Author of the Scent of my Mother and Sitawa Namwalie

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Ake Festival audience
(c) Iquo B. Essien

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Except stated otherwise, all the photos are owned by Victor Ehikhamenor.