On Friday morning, I returned to Abeokuta with the whole family, this time by driving. The room at the hotel at the Continental Suites was spacious and comfortable. Africa Magic played on television, with a number of interesting shows that took me back to memories of Ibadan where traditional and cultural stories were a mainstay of television entertainment. After a short nap, we returned to the Cultural Centre for lunch and a panel with Mukoma wa Ngugi, Eghosa Imasuen and Kei Miller. I already wrote a few thoughts on this panel in a previous blogpost.
Aptly titled Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense: Taming Colonial Tongues, it was a stimulating discussion that led, as planned, slowly, to a crucial crescendo of creative eruptions. The meat of the panel was to be in the question and answer sessions, but that wasn’t to be, as we were interrupted by the presence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo whose Book Chat was about to begin. Security protocols required that all guests be seated before the entrance of the former president and that no one would be allowed in afterwards. Dilemma conceded to pragmatism and curiosity, and the panel was dismissed inconclusively. If I’m ever asked what my regret from the Festival was, it would be not being able to enjoy the Q&A (or insisting on the will of the audience to keep the language panel open while the book chat with Prez Obasanjo also went on in a different hall. I also know that other considerations made this impossible: one member of the panel was the publisher of Chief Obasanjo’s new autobiography My Watch, and needed to be there). So, maybe the blame is mine. The Q&A could have started earlier. In any case, I intend to take up particular issues with each of the members of the panel in future events and interviews. The best news from the panel was the announcement of the Mabati-Cornell Swahili Prize for Literature, a brainchild of Mukoma wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree.
The panel involving President Obasanjo and the other involving Professor Soyinka deserve a blogpost of their own, so I won’t go into them here.
Other delights in the Festival include another panel on Modern African Languages, featuring Dami Ajayi, Bassey Ikpi, G’Ebinyo Ogbowei, Jumoke Verissimo, and Kei Miller, and the Night of Poetry Performances hosted by the able Remi Raji. poets and performers delighted and inspired us, while palm wine kept us in a state of ease. After this was the final banquet of food and dance, and the Ake Festival 2014 was done. On Sunday morning, while a few writers went on a tour of Abeokuta, particularly the famous Olumo Rock, I bottled my hangover in a coffee cup and headed back to Lagos. It had been a most delightful weekend.