On Sunday, October 28, the Ake Festival came to an end.
The four-day event, which holds annually in Nigeria, is the brain-child of author Lola Shoneyin, whose debut novel 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives' was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.
The event was declared open on Friday by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who acknowledged the importance of the creative industry, while also paying tribute to great Nigerian poets such as Niyi Osundare, Molara Wood and Tanure Ojaide.
Delivering his welcome address, he cited the consequences of discouraging participation in the arts with a fictional childhood experience he had with a girl he "fell in love with".
“Does the artist have a responsibility to society beyond that of the ordinary citizen? Is there a civil tax payable on talent? Does the fact of your genius place upon you, a moral burden to attempt to use the powerful voice of your art to fight for the soul of the land, especially to fight for the soul of the land from whence you came?” he asked.
According to Osinbajo's fictional narrative, he wrote a “lovely poem” to the aforementioned girl, but unfortunately for him, his mother found the letter in his bag and she beat the “poetic genius" out of him.
His narration went thus: "When I was 10 years old, there was a girl in my class who I was quite certain at the time that I could give my life. So I wrote her a lovely poem over a weekend; I wrote the poem on Friday and finished it on Saturday. And it was, if I may say so myself, a work of sheer genius. It ended with the dramatic words; 'your warm embrace may be the last desire of my heart before I die!'
"I tucked it in my school bag and looked forward with a heart filled with love for Monday, to present to the object of my affections.
"My mum, while cleaning out the bag, found the letter, and all hell broke loose. Needless to say, she beat the poetic genius out of me that terrible afternoon.
"But that’s not the end of the story. True love as you know, will survive even the worst brutality. So, I bore my injuries as a worthy suffering for my beloved. On Monday morning, I found the best opportunity to give her a freshly written version of the poem. I turned away as she took the letter, I didn’t want to behold the sheer pleasure as she read it, but as I turned around, I noticed that she had actually handed the poem over to the teacher and she was pointing at me!
"While my physical bruises have healed from that experience, from as you can imagine, what happened with the teacher, my capacity for writing romantic poetry had been greatly diminished."
In his closing address, he reminded participants at the festival that the story he just told them was a work of fiction.
“Did you enjoy the story I told earlier? It was fiction,” he said as the whole room erupted with laughter as he made his way back to his seat.
Later in the evening, everyone was serenaded to the music of the Queen of Waka, Salewa Abeni, Brymo, Adedeji, Sereetsi and the natives and Clayrocksu.
Second day of the festival featured panel discussions, which saw various discussants speak on topics ranging from spirituality, mother tongue, Biafra-Nigeria war, Women, Music, Africa and chat with film directors.
There was also an interview session by veteran journalist Kunle Ajibade and the festival headliner Nuruddin Farah, a Somali novelist better known as a 'Male Feminist'.
In the interview, Farah advised writers to read and research more after their debut book gets published.
There was also a stage play based on the novel, 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives'. It was directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr.
The third day had more panel discussions that saw writers such as Nnedi Okorafor, Roye Okupe and Toni Kan speak on wide-ranging issues from Afrofuturism, Black panther phenomenon, African Literature, to Lagos of the future and blood.