Ake Festival 2022

The Ake Festival 2022 was hosted in Lagos, Nigeria from November 24 – 26, 2022. Here is a recap of the happenings in one of the continent’s biggest literary extravaganzas.

The Ake Festival showed up as a new entrant to the African literary scene in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria in 2013. While festivals will come to the scene and leave quietly, this festival founded and diligently organized by a Lola Shoneyin-led team beat the odds and has become a force on the African continent. It is probably the most looked forward to on the African literary scene hosting writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, thinkers, bankers, and everyone else who can offer a unique insight. Its headliners and other guests have been Nobel laureates, Booker Prize winners, and others to make it one of the most star-studded events on the African continent.

Opening Ceremony

Lola Shoneyin at Ake Fest 2022
Lola Shoneyin at Ake Fest 2022

For 2022, festival organisers gave a hint that this year was going to be something different as it was to be the final edition. At the opening ceremony at the Stand Tall Hall in Ikoyi, Lagos, on November 24, Lola Shoneyin confirmed the official position;

“This is the last year we will be doing the festival in its current format,” she said.

She also welcomed all who had come through and hoped that they had an amazing festival. Also giving speeches or goodwill messages were an executive from Sterling Bank, Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Jochen Luckscheiter, and Luminate’s Toyin Akinniyi. Memorable poetry performances were given by Lebo Mashile and Hauwa Saleh. The event also saw the presentation of the new Ake Review featuring festival headliner Veronique Tadjo.

Panels

Ake Festival 2022 guests with Nobel laureates
Ake Festival 2022 guests with Nobel laureates

For three days, there were amazing panels around many topics discussed by a variety of people in the writing business and around it. What were the highlights? Picking from over two dozen events is not easy or even fair as this would be based on this writer’s personal preferences. The biggest highlight came on Sunday when Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah was scheduled to have a book chat with Kunle Ajibade. Fellow Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka decided to rock up and all hell broke loose as people scrambled to get into a historic photograph with the two Nobel Laureates. With such an amazing beginning, it was a bit of a letdown when the moderator delivered one of the most pedestrian sessions of the week. Poor Prof Gurnah.

Veronique Tadjo and Kinna Likimani
Veronique Tadjo and Kinna Likimani

Another highlight was festival headliner Veronique Tadjo moderated by Kinna Likimani in the “Life and Time series” with the focus being her newest LA Times award-winning title In the Company of Men. This session was conducted professionally as we have come to expect from the Ghanian moderator.

Kojo Koram (Uncommon Wealth) and Howard French (Born In Blackness) moderated by Kovie Buakolo were sobering and awe-inspiring as both guests spoke about the central part Africa plays in world history in spite of the communication from Europeans. The discussion also explained how the sins of the colonisers were now boomeranging back to their home states.

Ruby Goka, Miracle Emeka-Nkwor, Blessing Musariri, and  Elohor Egbordi
Ruby Goka, Miracle Emeka-Nkwor, Blessing Musariri, and Elohor Egbordi

“New Approaches to Publishing and Distribution in Africa” with panelists Hadiza El-Rufai, Ama Dadson, and Adedotun Eyinade was a revelation. “Sauuti: The Making of a Shared World of African Science Fiction” with Wole Talabi, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, and Cheryl S Ntumi was also so good. (Learn more about Sauuti by checking out this article from our friends at Brittlepaper by clicking here.) We were also introduced to new Young Adult Fiction from Ruby Goka (Even When Your Voice Shakes), Blessing Musariri (All That It Ever Meant), and Miracle Emeka-Nkwor (What Happened To Janet Uzor) with moderation by Elohor Egbordi.

Abosede George Ogan and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah moderated by Joseph Ike
Abosede George Ogan and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah moderated by Joseph Ike

Other really well-attended panels were “Does Africa Need A Sexual Revolution” with Abosede George Ogan, and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah moderated by Joseph Ike who was without a doubt my favourite moderator of the whole festival. Ike handed that sensitive topic so masterfully. Then there was African Feminist Identities with Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Lebo Mashile, and Jola Ayeye with moderation by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah.

It wasn’t just book adjacent topics on show at the festival as Nnamdi Ehirim, MI Abaga, and Nelson Abbey spoke about “Navigating Masculinity in a Macho World” under moderation by Ciku Kimeria. Seindemi Olobayo, Yomi Adedeji, and Abubakar Suleiman spoke on the topic “Will We See Economic Growth In our Lifetime” with moderation by Aisha Babalakin. Olaokun Soyinka and Hafiz Bayero chatted about “Africa Underwater: African Solutions to the Climate Crisis” while Kadaria Ahmed and Tunde Onakoya chatted about “Chess in Nigerian slums.” Abake Adenle, Tunji Lardner, and Tamar Nandul with moderation by Abdulkareem Babu Aminu spoke on “Japa Vs Civic and Participation.” Japa is a word meaning emigrating to another country, in case you are wondering.

Book Chats

Chimeka Garricks, Celeste Mohamed, and Toni Kan
Chimeka Garricks, Celeste Mohamed, and Toni Kan

It’s a books and arts festival so of course there were many book chats where you could see your favourite writer speak about stuff like their favourite writers, books, and member of the Living Single sitcom cast. Some of the writers audiences could interact with were Nnedi Okorafor, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Zukiswa Wanner, Tendai Huchu, Celeste Mohamed (Pleasantview), Chimeka Garricks (A Broken People’s Playlist), Khadija Abdalla Bajaber (The House of Rust), Leye Adenle (The Beautiful Side of The Moon), Francesca Ekwuyasi (Butter Honey Pig Bread), Alwanose Odafen (Tomorrow I Become A Woman), Ayesha Harruna Attah (The Deep Blue), Shiro Koinange (The Havoc of Choice), Umar Turaki (Such A Beautiful Thing to Behold), and Nokuthula Mazibuko-Msimang (The Daughters of Nandi).

Musical concert – Friday, November 25

Ade Bantu
Ade Bantu

The big musical performances with BANTU, Brymo, Ria Sean, Adunni Nefertiti, and Abeni Salawa on stage were hosted on Friday, November 25. Ria Sean is a young songwriter, performing and recording artist who was introduced with a competent performance. Brymo and Adunni Nefertiti aren’t new to the Ake Festival audience; the former gave such an abridged performance that if you blinked you missed it while the latter wowed us with their tunes. BANTU led by Ade Bantu is a name that this blogger had seen before but never seen live. He left the audience dancing like their lives depended on it. Even Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah couldn’t resist jumping on the dance floor and joining in the fun.

Abeni Salawa’s performance however was on another level and it made sense why she was the headliner that evening. The 61-year-old gave a performance for the ages; that alone was worth the trip to Lagos from whatever part of the world that you came from.

Palm Wine and Poetry – Saturday, November 26

Hauwa Saleh
Hauwa Saleh

Another signature event of the festival is the legendary “Palm Wine and Poetry” evening which as the title suggests is an evening of palm wine drinking and poetry imbibing on Saturday evening. This year, the scheduled performing poets were Maryam Bukar, Tade Ipadeola, Hauwa Saleh, Aremo Gemini, Lebo Mashile, Logain Ali, and Moyosore Olowokure. Another legendary evening hosted by Ade Bantu was had.

P.S. You can watch the festival in full which was streamed online by clicking here.

 P.P.S. Photos are either from the blogger or from the official Ake Festival social media channels.