Friday, November 20, 2015 7:19 am
By Funsho Balogun.
Activities at the Ake Arts and Book Festival which commenced on 17 November at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta was pushed to top gears on Thursday after the official welcome ceremony where Governor Ibikunle Amosun was on ground to welcome participants and guest from 18 countries. Hundreds of participants have found their way to the capital of Ogun State for the yearly event that now attracts global audience.
Although the festival began two days ago, with art exhibitions slated as the main events for the first and second days, participants and guests initially trickled in, as if awaiting the official take-off which the Governor and his entourage marked. The gripping movie, ‘ Ramata’ of the night before was perhaps the pointer to part of a rich bouquet of programmes in stock for Ake Festival guests who would eventually see more of such outstanding works as each day’s nightcap apart from other intellectually stimulating activities like book chats and discussions.
Lola Shoneyin, head of the Ake Festival organizing team, who was upbeat about the success of the event thus far, noted that this year’s opening ceremony happens to be the first to be held since the festival’s inception years ago. She disclosed to all in attendance at the opening ceremony that the topics for this year’s discussion sessions would be a departure from past deliberations.
‘’We have introduced topics that may be away from the mainstream, that are a little provocative, all towards a path of understanding and tolerance,’’ she stated. Her speech was followed by an applause- drawing stage poetry performance by Efe Paul Azino, and the introduction of Marine Platform Literary programmes by Baji Nyam, who noted that there were parts of northern Nigeria where conversations about literature are unheard of.
’’Courtesy of what we have observed as the lack of depth of literature in Northern Nigeria, we intend to support children from this region by rolling out 50 libraries, each with 100 books as a start, coupled with writer’s reading programmes and workshops. The north is not completely bereft of literary understanding, but those coming from there should be encouraged,’’ Nyam said.
The Marine Platforms official announced a cash prize of N200,000 for five awardees for their outstanding works as writers from the north. The writers include Samira Haruna Sanusi, Halima Haliyu, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Nathan John and Mariam Bogi.
On his part, Michael Arrion, E.U Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS was impressed about the wide spectrum of themes and activities. ‘’Art and culture are at the core of society, and as ambassadors we are involved because we know that investing in culture is smart economics,’’ he said. After brief comments on some of the festival’s topics of discussion and focus including corruption, religion, sexual orientation, and climate change, Arrion concluded that protecting minorities is the litmus test of democracy.
Another distinguished guest, Deji Haastrup, the General Manager of Chevron who revealed that he is a writer himself, remarked that since arts and culture is important for any nation, Chevron supports events like the Ake Book Festival that underline national cohesion. The long-list of the Etisalat prize for literature was reeled out afterwards by Opeyemi Lawal, Manager, High Value Sponsorships, Etisalat.