The 5th Element – Five Feminist perspectives from Ake Arts and Book Festival 2017

By Rafieka Williams for Genevieve Magazine

For it’s fifth edition The Ake Arts and Book Festival focused on “This F-Word” as a theme. The festival highlighted female authors, artists, academics and performers working to forward the Feminist movement. Speaking to some of the guests at the festival, we asked what “This F-Word” means to them.

Ama Ata Aidoo 

As a veteran poet, novelist and playwright, Ama Ata Aidoo has been writing for over sixty years. She is the author of The Dilemma of A Ghost; Anowa; Our Sister Killjoy; No Sweetness Here; Someone Talking to Sometime; Changes; An Angry Letter in January; The Girl Who Can and Other Stories; Diplomatic Pounds; and After the Ceremonies: New and Selected Poems.

Image Source: Ake Festival Website

Feminism is an ideology that upholds the notion that all societies on this earth should make it possible for women to have shelter, the best education that their society can offer, should have nourishment, should have clothes to keep them warm and covered and give them the best opportunities for their development. If you care for human beings, you would be a feminist.”


Pumla Gqola

One of South Africa’s  most influential public intellectuals, Pumla Gqola is a feminist author and Professor. Gqola was recently appointed as the Dean of Research at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. Her published titles include: A Renegade called Simphiwe; Rape: A South African Nightmare and her most recent book is Reflecting Rogue: Inside the mind of a feminist (2017), a collection of experimental autobiographical essays.

Image Credit: Otsholeng Poo

When we say the “F” word, we don’t mean the feminist word, we mean the word that cannot be spoken the swear word, the difficult word and I think feminism is difficult but it’s worth saying. It’s powerful because we know those things that we don’t speak about, we give power to, so it’s about taking that power back. It’s about profiling women’s lives and women’s production and women’s creativity, and the focus on women – imaginatively, intellectually, organisationally and across the board. It’s the power of being able to say it, it’s being unapologetically loving and celebratory, paying attention and being critical when we need to be, so not romantic about what feminism means or what women’s lives mean or how gender works in the world.”


Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American Author of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Her works include Who Fears Death, the Binti trilogy, The Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon.  Okorafor is also a Professor at University at Buffalo, New York.

Image Credit: Otsholeng Poo

I think it’s further opening up a conversation that needs to be had here in Nigeria and around the world but here in Nigeria, especially. I think that some who aren’t as open to ideas from feminists are here at the festival and got to listen. The speakers would be on stage and all you can do in the audience is listen which I think is really nurturing for those who hold opposing views. Those views could be so strong that they don’t want to listen, so I think that a lot of individuals got to hear a side or view that they may not have known about up until now, so the festival has been really useful.”



Olumide Popoola   

Nigerian-German writer, speaker and performer, Olumide Popoola has a PhD in Creative Writing and has taught Creative Writing at various universities. She is the Author of When We Speak of Nothing published by Cassava Republic Press in July 2017 in the UK and in September 2017 in Nigeria.

Image Credit: Otsholeng Poo

Feminism is at the forefront of everything I do – it is essential. We don’t have equality and we are not considered equal. From my view as an academic, I have a PhD but if somebody finds me in a lecture theatre, they always think I’m a student, or possibly the cleaner. There is a perception that we’re not quite as intelligent. I noticed that when I was studying, I had a feeling from some of the guys saying “ahh good for her she had an intelligent thought” but no, not really good for me. I am intelligent, that’s it, period! I think that it’s fantastic that Ake is putting Feminism at the forefront because we (women) are all doing our work, small small and we have been for a while so it’s time for the men now to step up and also do their work.”


Mona Eltahawy

Award winning columnist and international public speaker Mona Eltahawy is known for her contribution in discussing Arab issues, Muslim issues and global feminism. She is the Author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.

Image Credit: Otsholeng Poo

The “F” word represents two very important things for me. Primarily ‘feminism’ because I believe in feminism and the equality and liberation of women but I’m also very fond of the word f*ck. The “F” word for me represents ‘f*ck’, specifically – f*ck the patriarchy. That’s exactly what feminism has to do, it has to dismantle patriarchy. If there is one thing that we’ve learnt from the latest exposés of sexual harassment and worse – all these men are being exposed as sexual predators whether it’s the President of the USA or a Muslim scholar like Tariq Ramadan or Kevin Spacey, all of that is a reminder that all industries are dominated by men. Patriarchy enables and benefits men everywhere and patriarchy protects men, even from the crimes they commit against women. If we’re not seeing enough women creatives or artists, that’s because patriarchy has left all those spaces for men, specifically. Feminism – f*ck the patriarchy and get more women in these industries of every kind because that is the best way to dismantle patriarchy and to ensure equality and liberation for women.”



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