A Day in the Life of a Volunteer at the Ake Festival

Titilayo Adeoye

What does a day in the life of a volunteer at the Ake Festival look like? Titilayo Adeoye shares hers

The Ake Arts and Book Festival comes up every year in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. It is a festival that celebrates lovers of African literature and arts, and an event I’d love to attend over and over again. This year’s festival attracted writers I admire like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Noviolet Bulawayo, Andrew Walker, Titilope Sonuga, Teju Cole, Tendai Huchu, Lidudumangali Mqombothi, Helon Habila, Jowhor Ile, Shadreck Chikoti, Panashe Chigumadzi, Toni Kan, Lola Shoneyin, Sebastian Loerscher, Michael Kelleher, Marguerite Abouet, Chinelo Okparanta, Okey Ndibe, and Yewande Omotoso among others.

I worked as a volunteer at the Ake Festival bookstore, where I took lots of selfies and interacted with creative minds and writers. Other volunteers at the bookstore included: Adedayo, Dimeji, Ajoke and Olusoji. We would balance our sales for the day with the Line Managers, Tosin Adeyemi and Nanzing Haruna, before going for the evening entertainment.

After balancing my sales for the day and eating the tasteless fried rice at the banquet hall on Friday 18 November, I rushed to Hubert Ogunde Hall to see a stage play, Iyalode of Eti by Debo Oluwatumininu (an adaptation of The Duchess of Malfi), with my friends from Zaria (a city in the northern part of Nigeria) Abdurrahim Salihu Maiwada (Sam), Isiaka Hudu Ibrahim, Aliyu Ibrahim Mamman and Salihu Ahmed.

Sam, as I call him, because I cannot pronounce his full name, is my finest crony and he smiles a lot. Ibrahim is the naughty guy that likes teasing me. He’s playful and he didn’t keep quiet in the theatre, he kept whispering in his local language to Ahmed. I wish they just spoke English so I could join in their conversations instead of having to hush them.  I almost forgot Aliyu. He was quiet and paid attention to the stage play. Ahmed is playful and friendly. He had a date; a beautiful, tall lady who smiled a lot. They kept chatting during the play. I just wanted decorum but I couldn’t interfere with love.

Iyalode of Eti is an adaptation of John Webster’s masterpiece The Duchess of Malfi. and it transported us to pre-colonial Yorubaland with its aesthetics. The stage play started with Iyalode of Eti and members of her household on a long procession singing a dirge for her late husband.  She is forbidden by her brothers, Oluawo and Oloye Olorogun, from re-marrying but she proposes to Oguntade and they secretly get married with the help of Yeye Osunkemi, her mentor.

The stage play highlighted love, hatred, evil manipulations, betrayal, revenge and death.

“You’ll now lead me to our new bed chambers where we’ll dance the dance of lovers.”

Iyalode of Eti thrilled the audience with her poetic and romantic lines which she used to woo her paramour:

“Would you love to have my flower?”

“You’ll now lead me to our new bed chambers where we’ll dance the dance of lovers.”

Labake and her husband, Oluawo, delighted the audience with their lovey-dovey. When Oluawo said “Can I play your ‘drum’ with the skill of an ayan”, Ibrahim asked me what “Olufunmike,” as her husband eulogized, meant. I replied, ‘God gives me to take care of’ and he looked at me, and said he would take care of me.

Anyways, I loved the way Oluawo beat his bottom for his wife as a drummer beats his drum.

The love between Iyalode of Eti and Oguntade was captivating, and as they sang love songs, Ahmed and Ibrahim danced to the beats of their love.

I left the hall before the end of the play due to the unbearable AC induced cold.

Moje narrated the end of the play to me, highlighting the tragic end; the only survivors were the drummers and Oguntade’s friend.


Nigerian writer, Titilayo Adeoye, is a graduate of Literature in English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. Bits of her creative gem have been featured or are forthcoming on African Writer, Kalahari Reviews, Avocet journal #204, thesparklewritershub.com, Bakwa Magazine, Sabinews and elsewhere. She edits for Kraft Books, Ibadan, Nigeria. You can follow her on instagram @adeoyepelumi.



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