I wake up very early, feeling excited and optimistic about the day. I have a rather pleasant breakfast with Chinenye while listening to good music.
We arrive cultural centre in time for the first book chat. Sarah Ladipo Manyika talks about and acts out characters from her book ‘Like a mule bringing ice cream to the sun’ of which I now have a signed copy of.
Yewande Omotoso talks about her book ‘the woman next door’. The book chat is interesting and funny, and I get even more taken by Sarah Manyika. Chinenye accuses me of having a crush and I don’t deny it.
Immediately after we head to the chat room for a panel discussion. It’s titled ‘Legs open, Eyes Closed: Sensuality in new African writing’. Speaking on the panel are four interesting people — Chinelo Okparanta, Toni Kan, Kiru Taye and Nana Darkoa.
They discuss and answer questions about writing sex scenes of different sexual orientations. A quote from Chinelo Okparanta on the silencing of women’s sensualities stays with me and I write it down, “When I write (about sensuality) I take back my power.” Chinelo Okparanta speaks really strongly and I understand why people like her so much. Toni Kan infuses the humor and subtle jabs and they all make an interesting panel.
Chinelo Okparanta says, “Fiction needs to rebel” and I can only agree. They discuss a lot of things ranging from queer sex to feminist pornography. The panel ends too quickly and we all disperse.
Up next is a book chat with NoViolet Bulawayo for her book, ‘We need new names’ and Jennifer Makunbi for her book ‘Kintu’.
Halfway through, Chinenye and I grow restless and decide to visit the gallery. We haven’t properly seen the exhibitions. We look around and take a lot of pictures. The photography and art is beautiful and as always, I’m in awe of the creativity of the artists. It occurs to me then that the festival ends tomorrow, and I’m hit with a wave of sadness.
We stumble into a book reading by the writers of the Farafina anthology “It Wasn’t Exactly Love”. Some of the writers present read excerpts from their stories and sign copies for buyers. I am taken by the stories by Nana Darkoa and Yewande Omotoso, so I buy a copy and they sign it.
It has been an interesting day so far and I know the fun is far from over. We make our way to the cinema hall for the festival of short films. This time, I make sure I get great front seats. No more dulling.
The first short film screened is called ‘A mother’s journey’ by Sade Adeniran. It’s about a woman who has depression and is unable to bond with her newborn child much to her mother in law’s chagrin. When the baby cries at night, her husband rushes to his side, while she places a pillow over her head to drown out the sound. We soon come to realize that she was abandoned by her mother several years ago along with a sibling. By a twist of fate, she finds out her mother is in London for a daughter’s wedding. Her (the main character) husband invites her estranged mother over to talk. They believe that meeting her and getting answers will provide the closure she needs. A few minutes into her mother’s visit, it dawns on her that getting answers from her mother will not automatically cure her depression, and only her can help herself. The film ends with her promising her baby that she would try to be a better mother. The film also ends with me in tears.
The second film, “Salt” by Umar Turaki is a welcome comic relief and a very brilliant one. Remember that night, sometime last year, when a silly rumor was spread across Nigeria, that we should all bath with salt and warm water to avoid getting infected by Ebola? Yes, that. It is based on the experiences of three young ladies, who despite being doubtful of the news, give in and take their bath with salt and warm water. It is refreshing and funny, and I love it.
The festival of short films comes to an end and it is time for the tour of Olumo Rock.
Chinenye and I return to our hotel to put on suitable shoes but by the time we return to the cultural center, the convoy has already left for the tour. We decide to take a cab and join the tour. When we get there, we realize that we aren’t as late as we thought. We pay the gate fee subsidized by Aké festival, and the climb begins.
My fear of heights and my fear of clustered places combined, this is me conquering a few fears, like the badass I am. It’s an almost 30-minute climb to the top, sometimes we use stairs, and other times, we climb the rocks. It is an amazing experience and the view at the top is worth the climb.
It’s getting dark so they rush us down the hill. I don’t have time to take enough pictures. I think that I must come back here, sometime soon. We hurry back to the cultural center to have dinner before the stage play begins. I have dinner with Chinenye, Nnamdi, Kitan and Williams. Chinenye and I hurry to the main auditorium after our meal to secure our front row seats.
The play begins almost two hours behind schedule, but it begins anyway. I am familiar with all of the actors and seeing them on stage gives me an unimaginable thrill. They feel like family to me. It’s the first proper stage play I’m watching, still, I can tell it is an excellent one.
A tragic tale of love and anger. Almost all the main characters die at the end of the play by one man’s blade. The actors put up sterling performances and when they sing, I feel goosebumps on my skin. How can they sing and act so beautifully? It lasts for over two hours with a short break in between. The hall is too cold and my body is exhausted but I see the play till the end.
When it’s over, Chinenye and I wait to ride back to the hotel with the actors. We hug them and tell them how much we loved their performances. I tell Rotimi that his character was my favorite, and I tell Tunji that his character, an assassin that reminded me strongly of Tyrion Lannister was my least favorite character. I feel proud to have met all of them and I’m thankful to Aké for the opportunity.
I go to bed very late and very exhausted, but also very happy.
It was a really good day.