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Mixed reactions as Ake Arts and Book Festival leaves Abeokuta abode

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Festival organiser, Lola Shoneyin

After five glorious years in Abeokuta, we are delighted to announce that Aké Arts and Book Festival 2018 will take place in Lagos State. Dates will be announced shortly.

We thank you for your love and support over the years,” was how organisers of the festival that has had its home in the rocky city of Abeokuta, Ogun State, announced the festival’s planned move away to the boisterous city of Lagos on its Facebook account.

The festival team is organised by Book Buzz Foundation (BBF), led by novelist and poet, Lola Shoneyin.

And reactions to the planned relocation came in fast and thick late last week from book and art lovers, who expressed mixed feelings over the move.

Indeed, the rusty and quaint outlook of the ancient city the Egba occupy, which also gave the festival its name, Ake, partly lent the festival its provincial charm in the five years the city hosted it.

Now, festival-goers will be plunged into the boisterous city of Lagos. This is a prospect some book lovers dread, as Abeokuta usually offered them the serenity that Lagos lacks.

Justin Ebuka Muodebelu stated in a lament, “Most people would leave early as they can’t afford the hotels around and wouldn’t want the “Fine boys” in Lagos to show them pepper.”

Also, Gloreea Asabor mourned the possible loss of innocence arising from the decision, when she said, “But I thought Ake festival was started to take people back to their roots and give Abeokuta exposure…”

Patrick O. Okigbo was also loud in his lament, “I am sad! Ake can’t be Ake if it is in Lagos. It should be in Abeokuta, period. No ifs or buts. I am heartbroken. However, I understand the challenges, realities, and difficulties of organising such a fantastic festival in Nigeria… and in a secondary city. I will be there even if Ake is held in the middle of Atlantic Ocean. Abeokuta would still hold a special place in my heart because of Ake. You, Lola Shoneyin, created magic for that city. Well done.”

Kenyan writer, Zukiswa Wanner, who has been a regular feature of Ake, said, “Mixed feelings. I imagine the move is because it’s bigger and needs bigger space. But I also love Abeokuta and while I know that this makes it easier for literary Lagos, given hotel bookings and all generally being full in Abeokuta, I’m gona miss my palm wine guy, Sunday! I know you (Lola) will make it happen wherever it is though so; shine!”

Dilman Dila also has mixed feelings about the move, when he said, “Mixed feelings, too. Abeokuta gave it a unique atmosphere, small and intimate; more like a family gathering (you know, when you all go to the village to see grandmother) and it’s a quiet experience. Lagos will give it a big city atmosphere, which may not be a bad thing, but Abeokuta gave it a unique identity.”

Oluwabukola Iji has proposed Epe, Lagos, for the festival, so it could retain its provincial atmosphere: “I am happy o! Ake Arts and Book Festival, you can take it to Epe for the ‘rustic feel.’ Governor Akinwunmu Ambode will be chuffed. And it will fit in with his arts and tourism agenda for the area and Lagos!”

Taiwo Olaleye, tongue in check, wants organisers not to take Ake name with them to Lagos: “Well, I was at the last edition. I guess our time is up as the host town… Kindly drop our Ake name, too, abeg! Let it remain with us… (Laugh out loud – lol).”

An American poet and visitor to Ake, Michael Kelleher, said of the move, “I have fond memories of my trip to Abeokuta, but looking forward to one day coming back to check out the festival in Lagos!”

The idea does not appeal to Gloria Rhodes-Nash, who sued for the continuity of the rustic charm of Abeokuta, when she cried: “No!! Please, don’t. The serenity and rusticness of Abeokuta adds to the festival!”

So, too, was Kitan Belles Aladesuyi: “No jor; I love the serenity of Abeokuta. It does add something to the Ake experience!”

It was the same emotions with Obafemi Ilesanmi: “That’s bad news for Ogun State’s culture and tourism. And you will still call it Ake?”

For Muna Anazodo, “There must be a good reason but you know us humans… Me, too, I must add my Noooooo! But, why now??? I just fell in love with Abeokuta last year!”

To cap all the emotions the planned move has elicited from literary buffs and book lovers was master satirist, poet and short fiction guru, Chuma Nwokolo, who waxed poetic at the idea, when he said, “I was at the first Ake Festival and it still occupies a special place.

Methinks that the gluttony of Lagos does not need yet another literary feast. If any Lagosians really wanted to do Ake, they could get there in the time it takes to make a pot of unugbu.

“My friend Lola and team have managed to pull off a feat from a “provincial” base and while hard-headed realities of headcount and economics have probably forced this move, here’s a minute of artistic silence to the egalitarian aspirations of all small towns who have secretly desired to best Lagos at the literary beauty pageant. Only to have the wench seduce their lawfully wedded wives!”


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