By Henry Akubuiro
Lola Shoneyin, the founder and Director of the annual Ake Arts and Book Festival, has commended Sterling Bank Plc for supporting this year’s edition of the festival.
The 2021 edition featured thirty events, including book chats, panel discussions, documentary and film screenings, a poetry video album, an art showcase and a music concert. The festival curated five intergenerational conversations that reflected the 2021 festival theme: Generational Discordance.
In her closing remarks at this year’s edition of the festival, which was held virtually for the second year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Shoneyin said, “Having Sterling Bank by our side makes our heads swell. From their commitment to the belief in the transformative power of our stories and for helping us document and archive our ideas, we thank you.”
She said the Ake Festival was the envy of cultural entrepreneurs and organisations across the African continent: «Across the continent, cultural activists often say ‹we need a Sterling Bank›.»
Lending his voice, Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Sterling Bank Plc, said the bank had continued to support Africa’s biggest literary festival, because education was one of the five sectors that the bank was currently concentrating investments in, as well as health, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation.
The three-day festival featured ‘The Life and Times Series’ event with Booker-Prize shortlisted author, Maaza Mengiste, in a conversation with the festival headliner, Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 winner of Nobel Prize for Literature.
Gurnah, a Tanzanian author, spoke about the invasion of East Africa and noted that, until recently, most conversations about colonial presence in Africa had always excluded Germany. The Nobel Laureate, however, used his novel as a medium to narrate how Germany established colonies in present-day Namibia, Cameroon, Togo, parts of Tanzania and Kenya, as well as Rwanda and Burundi, adding that the German colonial rule was as brutal as colonial enterprises were in an era known for its oppression and violence.
Commenting on this year’s theme, Shoneyin said the internet had amplified generational differences in almost every area of African life: “From relationships, love and marriage; spirituality and religion; gender and feminism to politics and activism, the differences in perspective are glaring. Where earlier generations of Africans are anchored to their cultural identities, our younger compatriots see themselves as a part of a globalised world. It is easy to assume that our aspirations are poles apart but they are not. Africa cannot afford the luxury of endless culture wars.
“Engagement and communication – characterised by a willingness to listen, as well as mutual respect and empathy, are what will face down the retrogressive forces and the structures and systems that oppress and dehumanise us.”
Some of the book discussions included Bring Back Our Girls by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson; Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe; His Only Wife by Peace Medie; Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation by Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi; Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim; An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon; Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi; Born in Blackness by NYT columnist, Howard French; When the Sky is Ready The Stars Will Appear by EC Osondu; The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Dorkoa Sekyiamah and The Teller of Secrets by Bisi Adjapon.
Alongside the intergenerational conversations, panel discussions also focused on African crime-writing, conspiracy theories and healthcare; disability rights and repatriating Africa’s stolen treasures, with discussions moderated by Harper Collins’ (UK) Nancy Adimora, which explored Of This Our Country; a new collection of essays and reflections by 24 Nigerian writers.
Virtual visitors enjoyed interviews with Denrele Sonariwo of Rele Gallery and Ade Bantu, Founder of Afropolitan Vibes.