Sterling Bank Plc has received commendation from poet and novelist Lola Shoneyin who is the founder and Director of the annual Ake Arts and Books Festival. This year’s edition featured thirty events, including book chats, panel discussions, documentary and film screenings, a poetry video album, an art show-case and a music concert. The festival curated five intergenerational conversations that reflected the 2021 festival theme: Generational Discordance.
In her closing remarks at this year’s edition of the festival, which held virtually for the second year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Shoneyin said, “Having Sterling Bank by our side makes our heads swell. From their commitment to the belief in the transformative power of our stories and for helping us document and archive our ideas, we thank you.” She said Ake Festival is the envy of cultural entrepreneurs and organisations across the African continent, adding that Sterling Bank has become the code word for companies that support the Arts with sincerity of purpose. “Across the continent, cultural activists often say ‘we need a Sterling Bank’,” she added. Also speaking, Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Sterling Bank Plc, said the bank has continued to support Africa’s biggest literary festival because education is one of the five sectors that the bank is currently concentrating investments in. The others sectors are health, agriculture, renewable energy and transportation. The three-day festival featured ‘The Life and Times Series’ event with Booker-Prize shortlisted author, Maaza Mengiste, in a conversation with the festival headliner, Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was announced as the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature. Gurnah, a Tanzanian author, spoke about the invasion of East Africa and noted that until recently, most conversations about colonial presence in Africa had always excluded Germany. The Nobel Laureate, however, used his novel as a medium to narrate how Germany established colonies in present-day Namibia, Cameroon, Togo, parts of Tanzania and Kenya as well as Rwanda and Burundi. According to him, German colonial rule was as brutal as colonial enterprises were in an era known for its oppression and violence. The author, in Afterlives noted that it was Germany that perpetrated the first genocide of the 20th Century in 1904 and 1908 respectively. The genocide was part of a campaign of ethnic extermination and collective punishment waged by the German Empire against the Herero, the Name and the San in German South West Africa (now Namibia). Commenting on this year’s theme; Generational Discordance, Shoneyin said the internet has amplified generational differences in almost every area of African life. “From relationships, love and marriage; spirituality and religion; gender and feminism to politics and activism, the differences in perspective are glaring. Where earlier generations of Africans are anchored to their cultural identities, our younger compatriots see themselves as a part of a globalised world. It is easy to assume that our aspirations are poles apart but they are not. Africa cannot afford the luxury of endless culture wars,” she said. “Engagement and communication – characterised by a willingness to listen – as well as mutual respect and empathy are what will face down the retrogressive forces and the structures and systems that oppress and dehumanize us. We must eschew the sensationalism and divisive influence of digital algorithms and find a more harmonious continental rhythm that allows us to talk to, and not past, each other,” she remarked. Some of the book discussions included Bring Back Our Girls by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson; Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe; His Only Wife, by Peace Medie; Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation by Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi; Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim; An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon; Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi; Born in Blackness by NYT columnist Howard French; When the Sky is Ready The Stars Will Appearby EC Osondu; The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Dorkoa Sekyiamah and The Teller of Secrets by Bisi Adjapon. Alongside the intergenerational conversations, panel discussions also focused on African crime-writing, conspiracy theories and healthcare; disability rights and repatriating Africa’s stolen treasures, with discussions moderated by Harper Collins’ (UK) Nancy Adimora, which explored Of This Our Country; a new collection of essays and reflections by 24 Nigerian writers. Virtual visitors enjoyed interviews with Denrele Sonariwo of Rele Gallery and Ade Bantu, Founder of Afropolitan Vibes.