Warning: This is a rant.
Let me talk about Ake ’16 before we enter the New Year and people start looking at me wankain if I mention it in January.
Me I dihnuh exactly enjoy it sha.
I don’t know really. Maybe I’m just weird. Or maybe it’s because I came very late and was feeling like the new girl in Primary 5 where everyone had already known everyone else. I had to be asking where what was and who was and when was and all that jazz. But for the drops of maturity still left in my system, maybe I’d have just started crying for my mummy.
Okay, I’m exaggerating.
There’s also the anticipation, the fact that I had wanted to attend since 2013 but was never able to. I would have missed this one too if I’d listened to Segun Odejimi and stayed for the remaining days of #Afriff. I won’t forget his many I-told-you-so’s when I said I didn’t really enjoy Ake as much as I did #Afriff.
Then there’s the distance from the cultural center to the place I stayed in Abeokuta, and the constant fear that I would not get a cab or bike back home if I stayed out too long (I had to beg a bike man to take #500 for an #80 distance one night). And because Oladayo was a fantastic host, always waiting up for me, I thought it unfair to keep him worried. So I would pack my things and leave in the middle of a programme, with Akintunde who won’t stop walking fast and whose single stride was like three of mine. 😒
What I did enjoy was matching faces with Facebook names. It was fun, and I had a good laugh when some people did not recognize me and I told them my name was Cynthia. Cynthia Morgan. Kikiki… I think Caleb was genuinely confused. Mark Anthony Banks said I shouldn’t take pictures again in my life as they do me no justice. I think Tj said something similar the following morning (so in 2017, I am no longer taking pictures. You people should come and see me in person. Tankyu.) Godwin Ogbu was screaming and making me laugh when I decided to be kind enough to introduce myself. I thought Jite Efemuaye was graceful, and when I walked up to Pearl Osibu and hugged her before telling her who I was, I half expected that she’d land me a slap. Or two.
I gave Hymar a big hug when he came and tapped my shoulder from behind. The next day, we exchanged a cool soundless fist bump, one that I am proud of to this day. You know the kind that you guys aren’t even looking at each other, but are mutually aware of each other? That one.
Recognizing Sibbyl was easy; she was tall like her pictures. Chimee too, I didn’t even have to think. Romeo was too easy, and Tj, and Jennifer Emelife, and Hauwa Shaffi, and Opeyemi Rasaq-Oyadiran, Adeola Opeyemi, and Mary Ajayi. Basit, not so much. He doesn’t post pictures like the rest, but he was warm. I didn’t recognize Tosan Tarre and Frances Ogamba and Mackenzie Ukpi until people introduced us. There was the conversation with Socrates Mbamalu about something writing-related, but I do not remember. I had to remind the dude that we were both in Charis OAU once upon a time. Justin has kind eyes, and I like the way he combined his native trousers with his tees.
Chiedozie. He was a sweetheart all round. He is a sweetheart. If not that Akintunde is a pant of varying proportions and fairly good company, I’d easily have ‘ported’ to being Chiedozie’s sidekick. The only problem was, he already had a sidekick, Stephen, who I was meeting for the first time. Normally, I wouldn’t care; having two giant sidekicks never hurt anybody, except, I couldn’t be around Stephen lest I choke on my laughter. I don’t know how he does it, but everything that falls from his mouth is laced with humor in some way. Sigh.
Jerry Chi was lastman. I thought I came late; Jerry came super-late and was still forming swag. But Jerry turned out to be a lot of fun, more fun than I expected. Atie Eric is a cool cat. He seemed to be having the time of his life with the camera hung around his neck. He took pictures of me I still haven’t seen. It was nice seeing Tochi Eze and Kemi Falodun and Nife Kolawole again, and recognizing Remy Binte and Oladele Noah wasn’t so hard; did I not say I am really good with faces? It was a delight to see Bankole Banjo and Seun Odukoya. Head of the Wobite assembly came and covered my eyes and cleaned 90% of my eye shadow in the process but his transgressions are forgiven him. I made two guesses before shouting ‘Deoye!!!’ and hugging him with power and might. Then he disappeared and was never seen again until that night he told Femi Famutimi that I am a badass writer.
I met Oris, but didn’t know he was Oris. Servio met me and had forgotten it was me. I met Bunmi Familoni, and he was a gentleman, smiling and shaking hands. I didn’t get a chance to meet Pemi Aguda, but I saw her many times. She bears an interesting resemblance with Kemi Falodun.
I met Aishat Abiri. Her bag was useful for keeping seats and she has eyes like tiny china saucers, beautiful like mine. I met Abimbola Ige, and met his freckles too. He has a vanilla soul. We had good talks. I met Umar Turaki, but only knew he was Umar after his film ‘Salt’ was shown. Ife Nihinlola ran away, then came back, then ran away. I still am looking for space in my heart to forgive him, perhaps I’ll find it in the coming year. Chika Jones is a fine spoken-word artiste. I call IK the faceless one. He wasn’t so faceless after all, and his quick wits were always about him. Ara Deinde is a simple pleasant fellow. But he owes me a photo (a portrait actually, but I needed those words to rhyme).
I’d say the people I met made Ake worthwhile. The books too (Teju Cole’s,precisely), and the Olumo rock visit. I didn’t stay for the party, so there isn’t much from that night to tell. Jerry drank my palm wine at the poetry night when I scrunched up my face at the taste of it. Titi Shonuga’s poetry was everything, and I enjoyed the conversations on new media and exploring horror in African fiction. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s interview gave me life, but my stomach was running so I kept running out to catch it. I think Lola Shoneyin is superwoman, and next year, I hope I’d get the chance to fully enjoy the beauty that I know Ake is. This year, not so much.