The festival officially kicked off on Tuesday, 17th Nov for external participants. For us as volunteers however, it’s our Day 3. Tuesday’s event was all about the environment and how human activities contribute to spoiling it. The 1st Lady of Ogun state – Olufunso Amosun opened the day tagged, ‘Our environment, our world’. Along with the 1st lady, sec sch representatives from 8 schools in and around Abeokuta were invited to a never-before-seen documentary on the environment titled, ‘Nowhere to Run’. It was a very touching film, chronicling the degradation of this country we call Nigeria, not some far away unrecognizable land. From the harsh effects of desertification and deforestation in the Middle belt and North of Nigeria, to Extreme flooding in the South East and of course indiscriminate gas flaring and Oil spillage in the Niger delta; the documentary hosted by Ken Saro Wiwa Jnr. was very instructive. It’s a call to action for us to do all we can to safeguard our immediate environment, as we lose a part of the environment every day.
We milked the call to action with the students who then had a breakout session to work on environmental friendly products from materials given to them by the Festival team. Thereafter, they made a presentation to a panel of judges and a winner was selected from the group. The winning school- Gateway Sec. Sch won a N100,000 cash prize, while each individual student got a N5000 cash prize and books as well. All in all, it was a full day of introspection for everyone present.
Did I also mention that a fiction workshop was concurrently holding at the centre grounds. The workshops were led by Nnedi Okorafor and Taiye Selasi for budding and aspiring writers.
Wednesday 18th also saw us continue the outreach to the students. Writers and invited guests were split into 5 groups and sent to these schools to read and inspire them. I was paired with Siphiwo Mahala- a South African author and Adeola Fayehun- a freelance journalist.
We arrived St. Peter’s College, Abeokuta and they were prepared to receive us in their scho hall. Lola Shoneyin opened up with introductions, then Siphiwo read from his book, ‘When a man cries’ and Adeola spoke about her career as a journalist and her now-famous awkward video when she tried to interview Robert Mugabe in Nigeria. We wrapped the school visit with a reading of a piece titled, ‘The Head Story’ from Lola Shoneyin’s collection of poems. As we drive off to return to the June 12 cultural centre, two things stay with me. The first- hope that this visit has been impactful for the students. If not for all of them, at least for a few of them. My second thought is for the sign language teachers who translated from English as the guests spoke. I can’t help but be impressed at their presence in a school like St. Peter’s College.
This morning, the opening ceremony with the Gov of Ogun state and a whole lot of artistic performances.