Zaynab Quadri is Nigeria’s leading bookstagrammer, and she says that everyone who can should make it a point of duty to attend this year’s edition of Ake Arts and Book Festival running from November 14 to the 18th.
Ake Festival is an annual literary and cultural extravaganza featuring film screenings, art exhibitions, panel discussion, poetry readings, and tons of workshops. Every year, visitors from various parts of Nigeria and the would troupe to Ake, a town in Abeokuta, to enjoy days of pure literary and artistic goodness.
We are asking that everyone who can should attend. For those of you who are yet to decide whether to attend or not, we are posting Quadri’s reply to fans who wanted to know whether they should attend. The reply which was posted on Instagram (@bookminimalist presents a compelling case. It should be all you need to get you to click HERE and register!
3 or 4 people have messaged asking me if they should attend Ake festival or not. I am not a terrible person for not replying earlier, apologies for my delayed response.
Here is it: Ake festival as you may know is one of the most prestigious literary festivals in Africa, that attracts the best speakers on its panel from across the world. It hosts African writers, artists, filmmakers and thinkers from all over the world. It also showcases the very best of contemporary African literature, music, art, film and theatre.
I have attended twice now and Ake festival lives up to the hype as an impressive project. The festival sees Nobel laureates, Man Booker, Caine Prize winners, witty, up and coming writers, lovers of good literature charming you with intellectual debates, book readings, discussions, questions and more.
How wonderful and inspiring it was to listen to literary men and women discuss the process of making their work.
The discussions and Question + Answer sessions are vigorous and dynamic. And tbh sometimes authors sat through panels and did what they needed to do without any particular enthusiasm. However, not all sessions are like this. Only a tiny few are boring. My best session last year was the one with Kadaria Ahmed, Teju Cole and Helon Habila.
I also enjoyed Ngugi’s session, despite his old age his mind and tongue was sharp, clear and full of humour as always. He described his early days, prison times, his success and failures in a manner so concise and yet so explanatory. You guys may have noticed, I was not so pumped advertising Ngugi for a Nobel this year, primarily because Okey Ndibe said: “Our obsession with Nobel Prize diminishes us. It is wonderful when a writer is honored but not getting a prize does not diminish a writer’s work” I particularly enjoyed Alain Mabanckou and Okey Ndibe’s session too.
If you are nursing literary aspirations, you will get useful advice from listening to successful writers discuss their works. And master classes are organized, and taught by professional authors. The session with Chris Abani and NoViolet Bulawayo changed my life and my writing.
The festival bookshop has over 4,000 books at the festival bookstore, at excellent prices. Perfect place to splurge on good books. I got an Orhan Pamuk I have been looking for, for ages for 2k at the store. And I also made new friends at the store who got me free books. Trust got me Kintu by Jennifer Makunbi last year, and Agbonmire got me The Secret History of Las Vegas in 2015.
I understand that festivals for authors can be a wearisome chore, signing books and speaking engagements can become tiring and tasking. But I sincerely wish authors will take time to interact with ‘shy’ people who cannot ask them questions publicly but who approaches them for a conversation. Last year, @roqeebah and I, were chasing Teju Cole about and he barely had our time. I really wanted to talk to him and ask him questions ughhh.
Someone pointed out that, “it’s the face to face interaction of readers and writers, that gives literary festivals it’s special appeal in the age of internet”
It seems to me that there is enormous potential in inviting libraries and librarians. I feel it is important to ensure that these is not about authors, writers, publishers alone but giving voices to librarians, the custodians of our future.
Also, I feel bad that the festival is ignoring eBooks publishers and authors, seeing that there is a massive surge in ebook sales in Africa, in recent times. (@okadabooks for example).
Perhaps, I should mention that while traveling back from Ake last year, a certain first timer raised that Ake is mostly a political, feminism, identity and social justice circus rather than a real discussion of books. I know a lot of people going for the first time may feel this way, (especially people who are not huge consumers of African literature) but you need to realize that these are trying times, and it behoves on readers/authors/publishers to pay attention and actively engage with the world. I think it was Teju Cole who made an interesting argument about getting involved and not only having hashtag activism when bad things happen in Europe.
He said: “We should learn to condemn all violence, and not just photogenic violence”
My advice, for a first timer, go with your friends or message people you follow on social media to see if they would be attending, the festival is a bit clique-ly.
And go with snacks, to hold stomach during long queues for food.
Do a photo walk with other people, Ake is a really beautiful, pleasant, historical and picturesque town.
I also want to point that the Ake festival team and volunteers are incredible people, they are very coordinating and helpful. I cannot count the number of times, Jessica has gotten me a ride back to my hotel late in the night.
This is Africa’s best literary festival tbh, and I hope that this magical and important event will grow in the right direction, and will help revitalize our love for African literature.
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