Saturday, November 19, 2016 6:59 pm
By Adefoyeke Ajao
Proceedings at the 2016 Ake Arts and Book Festival have been dominated by interactive discussions with authors and experts from various fields. The quality of the sessions and interactions with audiences offers a sound rebuttal to any belief that art festivals are incapable of contributing solutions to societal problems.
This year’s Festival addresses pertinent issues but extends its focus to matters that are usually overlooked or denied. The discussions have spanned mental health, terrorism, sensuality, ageism and notions of identity.
In a panel moderated by Cassava Republic’s Emma Shercliff, writers Sarah Ladipo Manyika, (Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun) and Yewande Omotoso, (The Woman Next Door), explain why they have chosen to tell their stories through sassy female oldsters. With race relations featuring heavily in both works,the authors offer a new perspective about old age, one that resists its limitations and instead focuses on its opportunities.
Terrorism was spotlighted when journalist Kadaria Ahmed engaged photographer Fati Abubakar;journalist and author Andrew Walker, and activist and writer Chitra Nagarajan in a debate on “women in post-Boko Haram reality”. The three panellists who have worked closely with victims of the insurgency spoke extensively about their personal experiences as well as those of their subjects.
In another session anchored by Ms Ahmed, Teju Cole (Known and Strange Things) and Helon Habila (The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria), while discussing their books, explored a wide range of topics which included religion, terrorism and politics. Both writers not only read excerpts from their new novels but gave eloquent defences of their styles of writing and how their works discuss relevant issues.
Despite the dominance of book chats and panel discussions, the short film sessions also directed attention to issues that have at one time or the other dominated public discourse. On the film programme was Sade Adeniran’s A Mother’s Journey, a harrowing tale of postnatal depression and abandonment, and Umar Turaki’s Salt, which focused on the allegedly-curative salt bath touted as a cure for the Ebola virus. Also on the bill was Udoka Oyeka’s No Good Turn, whose narrative draws from the Boko Haram crisis.
The 2016 Ake Arts and Book Festival has served as a gathering of art and culture enthusiasts and through its theme, “Beneath This Skin”, focuses on starting conversations about the African perspective of identity. It is currently holding at the Arts and Cultural Centre, Kuto in Abeokuta and ends on Sunday, November 19.