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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

Ake Festival Attic and Babz Bamiro Photography 10

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. 


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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

6 Responses to “Book Festival of The Year! Stunning Photos From Ake Arts and Book Festival” Subscribe

  1. Lola Shoneyin 2013/12/03 at 03:22 #

    Thank you very much for this, Brittle Paper.
    Just a couple of corrections: Chimamanda Adichie was invited but was unavailable so she was never ‘on the bill’. Taiye Selasi, on her part, cancelled a few weeks to the festival.

    We have an incredible line-up of African (and international) writers, artists and thinkers attending the 2nd Ake Arts and Book Festival, 18-23 November 2014.

    Visit http://www.akefestival.org for more information.

  2. Ainehi Edoro 2013/12/03 at 09:40 #

    Hi Lola,

    Thanks for clarifying.

  3. Iquo Essien 2013/12/08 at 16:21 #

    Hi Ainehi –

    The second to last photo is actually mine…you can see the album here: http://ow.ly/rkG8G

    No problem for you to use it, but please add: (c) Iquo B. Essien, http://www.iquomma.com.

    Thanks, this is lovely! 🙂

  4. Ainehi Edoro 2013/12/08 at 18:34 #

    Thanks so much Iquo for letting me know. I’ve updated accordingly.

  5. kamoru 2013/12/12 at 03:51 #

    This is a nice one

  6. Theresa Doghor 2013/12/30 at 13:11 #

    I might be at the next one
    a new author too.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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