Lola Shoneyin

Lola Shoneyin, festival’s director

The 2016 edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival kicked off Thursday with an opening ceremony in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Hosted by media personality, Wana Udobang, the event began with the arrival of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo and renditions of the national and Ogun State anthems by Falana and Adunni and Nefertiti.

This was followed by a welcome address from the festival’s director, Ms Lola Shoneyin who highlighted the opportunities for collaboration, networking and relationship-building created since the festival began in 2013.

She said this year’s festival promises a memorable exploration of African identity through a series of panels, performances and book chats.

The organisers have also ensured that the festival reaches a wide audience by creating a mobile application; a designated blog, and by live streaming events on the festival’s YouTube channel.

Her speech was followed by Oba Gbadebo’s goodwill message, which featured a brief touch of history and a promise that Abeokuta would always host the festival.

He also praised the hard work and creativity of the organisers which he said was evident from previous editions and the quality of events lined up for this year.

The Alake’s speech was followed by a series of messages from representatives of the festival’s sponsors and supporters who emphasised the festival’s importance in drawing attention to the arts; its potential for tourism and changing negative stereotypes held towards Nigeria and its citizens.

The event also featured the announcement of the long list for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature.

This was done by award-winning author and poet, Helon Habila and Elvis Ogiemwanye, Etisalat Nigeria’s Director, Brand and Experience.

The Etisalat long list was not the only thing to be unveiled. Representatives of the African Speculative Fiction Society, led by Chinelo Onwualu, also presented the Nommo Awards for African Speculative Fiction by Africans, which has been awarded four years’ worth of prize money by the founder of the African Science Academy and the most influential black person in the UK, Tom Ilube.

The opening was not all about speeches though, as it featured performances from poet and co-convener of the Lagos International Poetry Festival, Titilope Sonuga and celebrated female singing group Adunni and Nefertiti.

This year’s festival was declared open by Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Hon. Muyiwa Ladipo.

The Ake Arts and Book Festival is currently holding at the Arts and Cultural Centre, Kuto in Abeokuta, and ends on Sunday, November 19.

Adefoyeke Ajao