Just in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the final stretch before the 2017 Ake Book and Arts Festival kicks off in mid November. The Ake Festival has grown to become one of the most important festivals for writers, artists and book lovers on the continent and with each year, the festival attracts more international writers, artists and activists looking to connect with their Nigerian audiences. This year’s theme “This F Word” is especially interesting, considering it centres the experiences of women in and out of the literary scene and asks us to engage them. The team at Ake have gathered a very diverse panel of women who are artists, creators and writers to speak, hold panels and interact and we are little awed by just how many young women there are on this year’s roster. These are some of bright young talent and veterans we’re eager to connect with at the Festival.
Amara Nicole Okolo
As a writer, Amara Nicole Okolo’s work is distinguished by her ability to focus on the things we’d normally consider boring or transient, mining deep human emotion from these mundane moments and forcing us to feel in the process. She is the author of two short story collections, and most recently her non-fiction memoirist essay on Catapult, dissects her parent’s fraught marriage and lays it bare.
Alexis Okeowo is best known for her journalistic essays and her by-lines for many of the world’s most reputable news organizations and magazines. Her work in recent times has been centered on Nigeria and its many complexities, and she recently released a “A MOONLESS, STARLESS SKY: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa”, a collection of her journalistic reporting and creative non-fiction of the people affected by religious extremism and sectarian crisis like Boko Haram. But Okeowo is versatile as her latest essay for the New Yorker on fellow Nigerian creative and disruptor Amaka Osakwe suggests. She will be bringing much needed journalistic insight to the Ake Festival this year.
Not many writers, especially ones who have a thriving career and a critically acclaimed debut novel shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize insists on tonal marks when their names are reproduced in print, but this is one of the ways Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ asserts herself in a world that seeks to homogenize her. With a long pedigree in Nigerian literature (she helped start Saraba Mag), and an intimate knowledge of navigating western spaces as a Nigerian writer, Adébáyọ̀’s insights will be invaluable at Ake this year.
There is nary a person who has seen Ifeoma Chukwuogo’s 2016 film Bariga Sugar and not felt strongly about either way. A gifted story teller using the medium of film, Chukwuogo uses nuance and empathy to tell the stories of Nigerian women of all ages, normally banished to two dimensional self serving portrayals.
We’ve been huge fans of singer/songwriter Joyce Olong since she first pop up on our radar on the Olma Records PGM EP. Since then, she has signed to the label and is about to put out her debut EP Merci Beaute (reviewed here) which revolves around sisterhood and the telling of complex female stories.
Nigerians will finally get to meet rockstar poet Koleka Putuma whose debut poetry collection Collective Amnesia sold out its first and second print reissue’s thanks to her undeniable moxie and a marketing plan and book tour that saw her connect to thousands of poetry fans in South Africa. Koleka’s already recieved some major press here in Nigeria but it would be great to see her finally bring her magic here.
When Mona Elhatawy released her controversial collection of Essays Of Headscarves and Hymens, few people could have foreseen just how much it would challenge the beliefs, presumptions and assertions of Muslims across the world. Praised in some circles and vilified in others, Elhatawy has become an avatar for Muslim women navigating their place in a world that seeks limit them. If not for anything, you can be sure that Elhatawy’s panel at the Ake Festival will be electric.
Yvonne Owuor (Dust)
Caine Prize Winner Yvonne Owuor’s Dust is finally making its way through the Europe and America and getting the global attention it deserves. But we have always been in awe of her superb storytelling and her great Kenyan epic, a book that challenges everything we think and know about how to write about Africa. We’ll certainly be sitting at her feet at Ake Festival.
Olumide Popoola’s new novel When we speak of Nothing (which I have actually read) has an unconventional protagonist who falls somewhere on the LGBT spectrum and navigates a world that doesn’t quite know what to do with him. Between the UK and Nigeria, parents that are both protective and secretive and difficult friendships, Popoola asks us to imagine the very thing that we often overlook, that LGBT persons are among us, and they are far more normal than we’d care to admit.
Olutimehin Adegbeye (TED)
“Who Belongs In A City”, this is the question that Olutimehin Adegbeye asks in her TED Talk heard around the world. Timehin’s TED Talk and much of her activism in the last year has revolved around the forced evictions of people in Fishing villages in Lagos state, where the governor is trying to ‘create’ a luxury megapolis by erasing anything contradicts that dream. Unafraid to tackle important questions, unapologetic about her convictions and utterly convincing with her arguments, Timehin is certainly going to be one of the highlights of this year’s Ake festival.
Poetra Asantewa already has somewhat of a love affair with Nigeria. She was chosen as part of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop class of 2016 and is very enmeshed in Nigeria’s creative writing scene thanks to her riveting essay on Olisa TV’s Supplement. But she is also a major voice in Ghana’s growing spoken word poetry scene, where she helped create Black Girl Glow, a collective created to help raise the profile of female artists in Ghana. She’ll be bringing her words and ideas to Ake.
So what are you waiting for, go register.
Edwin eats his rice and cabbages. Tweet at him@edgothboy