The official opening ceremony of the sixth edition of the Aké Arts and Book Festival began on Friday, 26 October 2018.

For the first time in Aké history, the festival was brought “home” to Lagos. This decision was met with mixed reactions — some happy that it is closer and some distraught that they would be missing out on their annual mini-vacations. However, this venue doesn’t seem to take away much from the joys of the festival as it is quite convenient, a walking distance from the newly opened Ouidah House.

This year’s Aké Arts and Book festival, under the theme “Fantastical Futures” holds at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja GRA, Lagos. The event actually commenced on the Thursday, October 25, with school visits and a fiction workshop taught by Ben Aaronovitch, titled “Getting Started on that Novel”. On Friday, the official opening held, with all the distinguished guests,visitors and press in attendance.

Welcome Ceremony

First and foremost, we have to give it up to Lola Shoneyin, who has championed this cause and perfectly organised the festival for six years now. Her welcome address during the ceremony was fire as usual. During the course of the event, there were beautiful poetry and dance performances by Nick Makoha and Wanjiru Kamuyu. Chibundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos and The Spider King’s Daughter, also got a chance to dazzle the audience with her voice, singing Victor Uwaifo‘s Joromi and the popular gospel melody, Aka Aka Ya.

 

At the ceremony, the 2018 edition of the Ake Review was presented to the attendees by Molara Wood and Ogaba Ochai, and Vlisco Creative Awards were also given to five women who had been found to be excellent in their various fields of endeavours. The 2018 Nommo Award winners were also announced, with each winner receiving $500 as prize money. Winning names include Tochi Onyebuchi for Best Novel (Beasts Made of Night), Tade Thompson for Best Novella (The Murders of Molly Southbourne), Wole Talabi for Best Short Story (The Regression Test), and Writer, Kwabena Ofei and Artist, Setor Fiadzigbey for Best Comic (Lake of Tears).

Distinguished guests and sponsors also said their goodwill messages — Mr Abubakar Suleiman (CEO Sterling Bank), Mr David Fatunmbi (Nikon country representative), Mr Yaw Nsarkoh (VP Unilever), the US Consul General, the French Ambassador and the Ambassador of the European Union.

Finally, His Excellency, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo welcomed the guests with a moving speech, which began with a humorous and tragic story of his former young poetic self and ended with his revealing that the story was fiction. It was such an ideal speech because it was well-suited for the kind of audience in the room. And with that, #AkeFest18 started off on high spirits.

Book chats

For the first day, there were four bookchats, which were followed by book signings. The first, right after the book chat centred around a journey of self and of life, and featured two great authors, Chibundu Onuzo and Michael Donkor, for their respective books, Welcome to Lagos and Hold. It was anchored by presenter, Arit Okpo.

 

The second chat, anchored by Zukiswa Wanner, featured authors, Niq Mhlongo and Peter Kimani for their respective books, Soweto Under The Apricot Tree and Dance of the Jakaranda. Another book chat was between Sefi Atta and Bisi Adjapon, for The Bead Collector and Of Women and Frogs, moderated by author Toni Kan. The final book chat featured Odafe Atogun for his new novel, Wake Me When I’m Gone, and Cynthia Jele for The Ones With Purpose.

Panel discussions

The panels for the first day were exciting! They ranged from topics about Black Britishness to Homecomings to the Future of Poetry. The most audacious panel was “The Fear of Queer” which centred around She Called Me Woman, a collection of Nigerian Queer Women’s experiences. The panel spoke about visibility and otherness of queer people, in a form that should be more than just seeing them as queer.

 

Chitra Nagaranja, the co-editor of the book said: “We need to interrogate what it means to visible. It could be visible to the community and to your family and friends.”

Olutimehin Adegbeye, the moderator, defined queerness in her own way: “Queerness means more than just otherness. There are so many ways to exist! Homophobic people reduce what it means to be queer. There are so many different ways to be queer. It’s more than just sexuality.”

Eloghosa Osunde also made a point that hammers home: “People are either talking about a romantic love or a homophobic family. There’s an in between we are not talking about. People look at queer as an opposite to heterosexuality but this isn’t so. My novel explores non romantic love between queer people.”

Films

We know, everyone is excited to hear about Rafiki, the Kenyan film about lesbian love. Hold your horses, it hasn’t shown yet, though it was scheduled for the first day. However, the other films and documentaries were Awani, Beyond Tolerance, An Untold Story of Slavery, Swallow, Call Me By My Name, Monsoons over the Moon, Visions and My Mother’s Stew.

If you missed any of them, you might still get the chance to see them during the course of the next two days.

Concert

 

Of course, the most anticipated part of Ake, right? A time to unwind and dance away your sorrows. The performances included Clayrocksu, Adedeju, Sereetsi & The Natives and Abeni Salawa. Brymo, even though late, was present to close the show with his wizardry performance.

We hope we’ve been able to give you the download of what happened on Day 1. If you missed the first day, hurry to Radisson for the continuation of the most anticipated Arts and Book festival in Africa! You can catch the live feed on Twitter and Facebook.


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