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book-chat-with-jowhor-ile-and-odafe-atogun

Was it with the full day of workshops by seasoned authors on Tuesday, November 15th ? Or the energetic musical concert that had us cheering and dancing simultaneously on Wednesday, November 16th?

Ake Festival 2016 began witha trilogy of events that reached a crescendo in the morning of Thursday, November 17th during the culturally rich opening ceremony. There were praise singers chanting for the Alake of Egbaland who arrived in style. Titilope Sonuga gave a poem rendition about the realities of Lagos, Nigeria and for the first time during this year’s edition, the authors, panelists, and guests came on stage for a group picture.

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With the formalities concluded, we were all set for the first Book Chat of the festival. Authors Odafe Atogun (Taduno’s Song) and Jowhor Ile (And After Many Days) in conversation with Dami Ajayi. There was a celebratory feel to this chat as Jowhor had just been recently announced as part of the Etisalat Prize for  literature longlist the day before. While Odafe’s novel published by Ouida Books was to be launched the following day.

After the book chat, guests had to make a decision on which panel discussion to attend. You see there are two panel conversations that happen simultaneously in the chat room and cinema hall. My choice was the Dami Ajayi moderated conversation with Lididumalingani and Rayo Adebola on mental health in African writing. It was heavy with medical terminology and the Nigerian film industry’s stereotype of sufferers from mental disorders. I liked how Rayo added her personal experiences to the mix of Lididu’s Caine prize winning story on the subject.

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This roll-up banner of Toni Kan’s Carnivrous City standing side by side with Festival sponsor, Etisalat makes me smile. It has that suspense filled theatrical effect that accompanies soon to be released action thrillers. When the crime fiction panel comprising the duo of Leye Adenle and Toni Kan sat with Tendai Huchu for a book chat, it was an all-round dose of entertainment. Leye revealed the inspiration behind his novel, Easy Motion Tourist to be the nude corpses he and his brother saw along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway and imagined what could have happened. While Toni Kan’s theory on most people in Lagos are spirits still haunts me.

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I have to commend the Ake team for including a panel discussion on crossing the Franco-Anglo literature border. Marguerite Abouet spoke about how she wanted her work, Aya of Yop City to present to the world her home in Cote D’Ivoire as it was, a happy place. Alain Mabanckou’s passion and knowledge for literature in general was contagious. He identified that he read both Anglophone and Francophone literature growing up. That discussion on an obvious translation gap was a reminder of what the Ake Arts & Book Festival is accomplishing; a forum for awakening refelection and engagement on issues previously overlooked.

Oh look! It is also an opportunity to take a picture with renowned writer, Ngugi wa Thiongo’o 🙂
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Nma rarely forgets the books she has read and attributes the reading bug to the moment she read Kofi Bentum Quantson’s two part novel, Mama Don’t Die. Ever a literary enthusiast, Nma is also a storyteller. She reveals extraordinary details in the lives of ordinary people and creates narratives for imagined stories.

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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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