Before the National Anthem is played to kick off the 2018 Ake Arts and Books Festival Opening ceremony, Chibundo Onuzo tests the microphone with the opening lines of the popular Christian song, “Aka akaya” to the surprise, and delight, of the audience. After the anthem, the host Wana Udobang, introduces a short film that highlights 6 years of the Ake journey.
Afterwards, Lola Shoneyin, the director of the festival gives a rousing speech on what Ake means to the people who have become a family: a safe space for the troublemakers, radicals, and rebels who have embraced these labels and are using both their creativity and conversations to interrogate the issues affecting Africa and Africans, eliminating censorship, embracing tolerance and freedom, and building bridges. Ms. Shoneyin emphasizes that in the background of all of this is the question: “How does this gathering affect the greater community? Why do art and creativity, matter? How do we develop the creativity and cultural spaces on the continent?”
Ms. Shoneyin’s speech is followed by a poem, “Kingdom of Gravity” performed by Nick Makoha. Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, MD/CEO Sterling Bank, a partner and major sponsor of this year’s event delivers a goodwill message, and Wanjiru Kamuyu entertains the audience with a dance performance. Mr. David Fatunmbi, Country Representative, Nikon announces during his speech that there is a photo contest in which the grand prize is a Nikon camera.
Molara Wood, the editor of the 2018 Ake Review, presents the magazine. She describes it as “a multiplicity of vibrant stories that’ll leave you thinking about the cities, and the Africa, of our future.” She is followed by a goodwill message from Mr. Yaw Nsarkoh, the VP of Unilever.
There is some excitement when Geoff Ryman, Jennifer Makumbi, and Zukiswa Wanner announce the winners of the Nommo Awards given by the African Speculative Fiction Society. Tochi Onyebuchi wins the Best Novel Award for his Beasts Made of Night, Tade Thompson wins the Best Novella Award for The Murders of Molly Southbourne, Wole Talabi’s “The Regression Test” wins Best Short Story, and Kwabena Ofei & Setor Fiadzigbey Lake of Tears wins Best Graphic Novel.
HE F. John Bray, the United States Consul General gives a goodwill message. Wana Udobang introduces Chibundu Onuzo, who gives an exciting musical performance. She is followed by the French Ambassador, HE Mr Jerome Pasquier who jokes that he is the least creative person in the room and can’t do anything creative including write good speeches. When Wana takes the stage back, she reminds him that he’s in a room full of writers who can help him write good speeches—for a fee.
Yvonne Chioke presents the Vlisco Creative Women Awards to Cynthia Ndeche, Kinna Likimani, Ummi Bakar, Wana Udobang, and Zukiswa Wanner. Yvonne Mbanefo and Louisa Egbunike of the Igbo Conference, and then HE Mr Ketil Karson, Ambassador of the European Union follow with goodwill messages.
To end the ceremony, the Nigerian Vice President, HE Professor Yemi Osinbajo gives a speech centred on the role of creatives in politics. There is a photo session, after which the VP declares the event open.