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‘Why Chevron is in love with creative enterprise’

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Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (cutting the tape) for the opening ceremony of Ake Arts and Book Festival; European Union Ambassador, Mr. Arrion Michel (left); Director, Ake Arts and Book Festival, Lola Shoneyin; Manager, Sponsorship and High Value Event, Etisalat, Opeyemi Lawal; Chief Financial Officer, Marine Platforms Limited, Mr. Baji Nyam and an official… in Abeokuta

Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (cutting the tape) for the opening ceremony of Ake Arts and Book Festival; European Union Ambassador, Mr. Arrion Michel (left); Director, Ake Arts and Book Festival, Lola Shoneyin; Manager, Sponsorship and High Value Event, Etisalat, Opeyemi Lawal; Chief Financial Officer, Marine Platforms Limited, Mr. Baji Nyam and an official… in Abeokuta

Gradually, Ake Arts and Book Festival is etching its name on the cultural calendar of Nigeria as an event both Nigerians and foreigners look forward to yearly. Besides, the fiesta is also enriching the profile of the ancient city of Abeokuta with its chanting ambience laced with cultural and natural endowments.

But the strength of this year’s edition, which ran from November 17 to 21, 2015 was the swell in the number of corporate concerns that have continued to partner with the organisers in delivering a successful package.

The team leader who doubles as festival director, Lola Shoneyin underscored this point in her opening remarks, saying “financing a festival of this magnitude presents all sorts of challenges, so we are truly honoured to welcome new sponsors like the European Union, the Bank of Industry and Marine Platforms who are as enthusiastic as we are about celebrating creativity on our continent.”

Shoneyin didn’t stop there, she also acknowledged the support of companies such as Chevron/NNPC, Etisalat, the Miles Morland Foundation, Goethe Institut, the British Council, the French Embassy, Annoying Logo and the Ogun State Government, who, in her reckoning “have not only grown with us but who continue to pat us on the back.”

General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs of Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. Deji Haastrup underscored why the oil company would continue to partner with the organisers of the Ake Arts and Book Festival to boost artistic expression and creative enterprise in the country.

Speaking at the formal opening on Thursday, November 19 that had in attendance, Governor Ibikunle Amosun as special guest of honour, Haastrup said, “The arts and culture are extremely important for any nation and for us at NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, it has always been critical that we support projects which promote national cohesiveness and contribute to nation-building.

“For years now, health, education and culture as well as economic development have been the focus of our corporate responsibility drive. Under Education and Culture, we have supported numerous initiatives and helped to sustain established few creative programmes.”

The GM concurred that the festival had lifted the profile of the ancient city of Abeokuta as “the home of the legendary Olumo rock; birthplace of our dear Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s first and only Nobel Laureate, international writer, poet and playwright. And on a personal note, Abeokuta is also the birthplace of my mother.”

For three years now, he said, “it has been our absolute pleasure to support the Ake Arts & Book Festival and to watch it grow into what we are all witnessing today. This is a very engaging way of reviving the reading and creative culture in Nigeria and hopefully it will eventually establish Nigeria as a major literary destination and creative hub in Africa. We must therefore commend Lola Shoneyin and the organisers for their commitment and creativity.”

The festival as a melting pot for like minds was also raised by Haastrup. “Walking into the premises today, I saw familiar faces that I’d previously only seen on TV or on the pages of magazines and cultural journals; I shook hands with people I’ve only read about – people whose works I admire and have enjoyed immensely….

“Being a writer myself and having only produced two books of Essays and travel notes in twenty years,  I marvel at how Lola Shoneyin combines her writing with organising such a grand event annually.

“These days, I find myself being somewhat envious of people who have doggedly pursued their creative ambitions in the way that many of you, seated here, are doing. I hope to be able to spend some time interacting with creatives here in the hope that some of that energy – which is redefining Africa and resetting the narrative of our continent – will rub off on me.”

He expressed fascination for the theme of the 2015 edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival: Engaging the Fringe. “This is because in these times of globalization, it is easy to dismiss those not in the mainstream of a shrunken world, those considered peripheral players in the global world of literature.”

He praised the foreign guests “for believing in the significance of this cultural hub Lola shoneyin is creating here. I also want to thank you Lola and your team  for making it so easy for us (Chevron) to direct our funding towards a cause that is so worthy-  one that facilitates dialogue among African peoples.”

Indeed, the festival, this year, lived to expectation as “pilgrimage to Abeokuta for intense cultural immersion” as proclaimed by Shoneyin at the opening.


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