Woke up the next morning revitalized, the knowledge that I was spending my last minutes in the dingy room giving light to my steps. Got myself ready for the day. There was going to be an opening ceremony that morning to officially open the festival. Went downstairs and met the manager at the makeshift reception who informed me (thankfully) that someone had been found to take my space and I would be getting my refund so long as I checked out before 12:00pm to enable the new guest move in.
Off to the venue I headed. The opening ceremony started later than envisaged. Thirty minutes and I was out in search of a better hotel. Checked out some hotels along the Ibara end of Abeokuta, found a pretty decent one with a great discount offer. Got back to the other hotel in time to check out before 12:00pm, luggage and refund in tow. I was unburdened. I was happier. Now, I could actually enjoy all the festival had to offer.
Went back to the venue some some hours later after napping in my new room. Though there was an ongoing Book Chat at the cinema hall I chose to go explore some works of art at the exhibition hall. Beautiful artworks titled “Dysmorphia and Other Thoughts” by Ayobola Kekere Ekun were spread out.
Fatima Abubakar’s catalogue of photographs was spread out as well.
I fed my ravenous eyes, had a chit-chat with Ayobola the artist. She was welcome to all questions. Got in a bit of an interview and a selfie to match.
Later on, I sat in on a Book Chat that had Toni Kan and Leye Adenle talk about their books which had closely related themes. This was moderated by Tendai Hitchu.
At the close of this, I did a bit of window shopping at the Ake Festival Bookstore with novels from all around Africa and a bit from outside the shores of the Continent.
Meals were being sold just a few feet from the Bookstore. Decided to get myself a bit of food before the next event which was a film show. The space made out for visitors to have their meals was small and yet there was no take-out option. I was famished. No other choice but to sit, eat in that small cramped atmosphere. There really wasn’t any other option at that time of the night.
I trudged back to the cinema hall after the sub par meal to watch a documentary titled “Hissene Habre – A Chadian Tragedy”. I was seeing and hearing for the first time stories about a military dictator in neighbouring Chad whose reign had been filled with terror, torture and enough human rights infringements that would have made Idi-Amin cower in fear. I was just learning about this vital part of Chad’s history. In silence and eye-popping astonishment, we all watched on as the film fed us with stories from people who had survived something similar to hell under their president’s regime between 1982 and 1990. Graphical drawings as shown in the documentary helped to create a deeper understanding of what the victims had been subjected to.
After the documentary, there was a chat session with one of the victims and survivors of Habre’s terror reign, Clement Abaifouta who was also a leader of the movement that had sought justice for other victims and survivors of Hissien Habre’s regime. It was a sober session as Clement recanted the horrors he had gone through and how those years changed him forever.
Pierre (left), Clement Abaifouta (middle) and Olaokun Soyinka(right)
All of this came to an end some minutes past 10:00pm. The distance between my hotel and the venue was one that required a means of transportation. All hotels that were walking distances to the venue had been fully booked even before the commencement of the festival.
I stood at the gates of the venue waiting for a cab or a bike. The atmosphere within the venue which was charged and filled with life was different from that outside the walls of the venue. Everywhere was quiet. No cars in sight, no street lights, no ware sellers. After some minutes, I eventually got a bike that took me back to my hotel at twice the standard price. After a 10 minute ride through dark, unlit streets interspersed with bushes, I got “home”, entered my room and uttered a prayer of gratitude for an event-less late night trip in a strange land.