Another day, another “rave of the moment” creative, another thrilling performance. Applause, smiles, oohs and aahs; a star is born. You don’t share in this novelty though; you have read nine out of her last ten pieces, her Instagram feed suffers from persistent attack by your repost button, and every tweet from her is a new nugget for you. You walk up to her, smile rapidly widening below your nose and adoration in your eyes.
“Wow, your last story published on Bantu Banana, ‘When Mangoes Fall On Children’s Fingers’, really spoke to me. So much soul, my adolescence played before my eyes.”
“Hmm…ok. Thanks, I guess.”
“I would really love to learn from you and work with you.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I am a columnist for Udala Penocrats, a literary magazine that is six months old and usually passes the 100-like quota for relevance on Facebook and Instagram. Here, my card.”
“Er, my purse is sort of full now. But let’s see, maybe when I come across any noteworthy features where you re mentioned, or commendable publication on your blog, I’ll reach out to you.”
You barely win the war with your face to conceal the disappointment. Your business card feels like melting wax in between your thumb and index finger. You stand almost transfixed as she huddles off to meet another literary enthusiast worthy of an elaborate conversation. You mentally delete all the drafts for the “I met an inspiration today” write-up you planned to type alongside the anticipated photo.
The Ake Festival is an annual ritual which brings in literary enthusiasts and opportunists from around and outside Africa. Every year in the third week of November, writers, book lovers, businessmen, bystanders and everyday people come together to climb rocks, place themselves at the mercy of exploitative motorcyclists, drink palm wine, exchange complimentary cards that might end up on lawns or bottom ends of handbags, watch some lucky bastards sitting opposite them at sleep-inducing panel discussions, pretend to enjoy some “deep” African music, and engage in trysts. Speaking of that last part, what happens in Kuto stays in Kuto, and you would agree that the things that don’t last, end up being the most intense of all.
Skeptics and cynics have panned the annual “biblio-orgy” as being too elitist, a hub of faux intellectualism, a circus of all kinds of “foreign” accents, and an avenue for snobbery to hold sway. You feel this “thing” in the air, from the subtle sneers of volunteers to the distant stares of reluctant creatives whom you put through the torture of appearing in a selfie to be uploaded with a phone whose camera quality is questionable. It’s the same books on the shelves every year, the same ten questions, contributors seemingly succeeding each other by order of acquaintance with the pens that matter.
You can’t blame them though; he who buys the vuvuzela has the power to determine how loud it sounds. It’s no mean feat to bring people together to drink, smoke, stare into books full of flowery writings, and fuck for five days. If you want a place on those cushions at the front part of the hall, you have to earn it; win an award that is known beyond your social media circles, or at least fuck the right people. In any case, if you don’t like what goes on at the June 12 Cultural Centre, a leap from the top of Olumo Rock is within the realm of possibilities. Live and let feast, afterall no one puts a gun to your head instructing you to board a bus headed for Soyinka’s hometown.
Disclaimer: This article stems from the opinion of the contributor (who has chosen to conceal their identity) and does not in any way reflect the views of Bagus Mutendi.