This year was evidently not our best, especially with the coronavirus outbreak. Due to this outbreak, many many events which were set to happen this year have been effected and some moved to an entirely digital format. One such events was the Ake Festival.
The Ake Festival is a 4 day event that has been going on every year since it’s debut back in 2013. The event is set to celebrate culture, arts, literacy and education.
Lola Shoneyin, the founder of this festival has been working nonstop every year to assure the success of this event, but she wasn’t expecting neither was counting on the Covid-19 outbreak. But right after she became aware that this outbreak might affect the festival she started working on ways around this issue.
In a statement, Shoneyin said, “As soon as the world became more aware and it was clearer how infectious the virus was, there was anxiety over whether or not the festival was going to take place”
On the 6th of May, Shoneyin annouced that the festival will now be set to take place digitally.
Shoneyin saw this as the only option in order to continue this festival which many were looking forward to. She planned ahead an made a quick decision to ensure no last minute adjustments were done. After contacting all the major sponsors of the event and ensuring that they were okay with her decision, an announcement was made.
The festival is so popular that it has gained the reputation of the most important event in the literature community in Nigeria. Back in 2018 the festival was moved from Abeokuta to Lagos which furthers it’s popularity and cementing it’s place in the literature community.
Of course the Ake Festival wasn’t the only event that was effected by the out break, many others were as well. One such event is the Lagos International Poetry Festival or LIPFEST for short. This is an annual celebration that takes place in Lagos every year since 2015. Just like the director of the Ake Festival, the director of LIPFEST, Efe Paul Azino also came to the conclusion to move the festival online after talks with the funders of the event.
Azino acknowleged that moving the event online can and will probably provide challenges, “But it’s a risk we are willing to take,” he says.
Physical events are much better because they provide the attendees with face to face interactions with others which can prove better than online interactions in most occasions. The publicity that offline events have is always far greater than that of a digital event. Physical events also provide Africans espicailly with the opportunity to talk with other Africans about their issues, concerns, and thoughts about affeirs or other things happening.
Shoneyin says, “African writers based abroad forget what it’s like to talk to an audience that is largely African, where you do not need to make excuses, where context is understood. “Something spiritual happens when these events take place on African soil.”
Even with all the issues, the organizers of these events are hell bent on creating the best experience possible under the circumstances. Some in fact see this as an opportunity to discover new methods and alternatives to their repetitive methods.
Shoneyin says, “I have no fears. I’m so confident that we will find new and more efficient ways of doing everything that we do. I will just focus on finding solutions. That’s the way my brain works.”