Nigeria’s Aké Festival Wins First Aficionado Award

In News by Porter Anderson

A project of Frankfurter Buchmesse and Torino’s book fair, the first Aficionado Award goes to Lola Shoneyin for her Aké Festival.

At the 2022 Aké Arts and Book Festival in Lagos. Image: Aké Festival

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Choosing Three Nominees: ‘A True Challenge’
Called “an entirely worthy and apt winner of this first award,” the Aficionado Award board has today (September 12) named Lola Shoneyin‘s Lagos-based Aké Arts and Book Festival as 2023 recipient of this unusual honor.

Shoneyin is to be honored on Frankfurt Thursday, October 19, with a dinner in honor of her and her Aké Festival.

Described as “a unique collaboration between its four founding members,” the Aficionado Award’s intent is “to recognize and pay tribute to the people, companies, and initiatives which innovate and impress in original collaboration.”

Lola Shoneyin

Such initiatives, the program’s organizers say, “improve the quality of international publishing.” And the further mission of the Aficionado, then, is “to make visible what is great and wonderful in publishing to all who are eager to be inspired and to collaborate for the greater good of the industry—to learn, teach and share; to encourage and establish a sustainable exchange of ideas about the important questions central to publishing.”

Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22) and Italy’s Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino (May 9 to 13) have worked together to support the creation of the award by its four-person board of founders:

  • Michael Gaeb, Literarische Agentur Gaeb & Eggers GmbH, Berlin
  • Rebecca Servadio, London Literary Scouting
  • Tom Kraushaar, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart
  • Aleksi Siltala, Siltala Publishing, Helsinki

The four founders of the Aficionado Award are, from left, Michael Gaeb, Rebecca Servadio, Tom Kraushaar, and Aleksi Siltala

This good gang of four selected the three shortlistees for this year’s Aficionado, presented them at the Torino international book fair in May, and asked attendees at the shortlist presentation to then choose the winner.

Of the three, Lola Shoneyin and her Aké Arts and Book Festival proved the winning shortlistee.

In their statement of rationale, board members Servadio, Ravi Merchandani, and Daniel Medin write, “The Aficionado Award was created to recognize unusual collaborations  across the publishing world, focusing on the forging of creative and original  connections between readers and writers.

“Considering the nominations,  which ranged widely both in kind and across the globe, was inspiring;  choosing a shortlist of only three was a true challenge.

“We were delighted when Lola Shoneyin—festival organizer, writer, publisher, cultural  entrepreneur—and her Aké Festival were selected as an entirely worthy and  apt winner of this first award.”

‘Establishing a Sense of Community’

Two winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah (the 2021 winner), left, and Wole Soyinka (1986). Image: Aké Festival

Familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers, Aké Arts and Book Festival was founded by Shoneyin in 2013. The goal of the program in Lagos is to promote, develop, and celebrate creativity in many parts of the African continent through public events.

In choosing the program for the Aficionado Award’s first shortlist, the program says, “Over the last decade, Aké has excelled at establishing a sense of community between participating authors while creating important connections with the local audience in Abeokuta, Lagos State. One of the festival’s explicit aims is to promote literacy, especially among a younger audience.”

Curatorially, Aké highlights Nigerian and other writers particularly relevant for African readers.

As described by the Aficionado program, “This prioritization of what is locally resonant over commercial European or American expectations of what African writing ‘should’ resemble is refreshing, enriching and vital. To date, Aké has brought together writers, artists, poets and filmmakers from 29 African countries.

“The festival has also produced a print review, published in English, Yoruba, and French, featuring many authors who have in the meantime reached a larger audience, in and beyond Nigeria—Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nurradin Farah, Ama Ata Aidoo among them.”

Nominated with the Aké Festival were The Passenger, a book magazine, the Aficionado Award’s board wrote, “collecting new writing, photography, and reportage from around the world”; and the “international literature cooperation” called Meridian Czernowitz, engaged “in various cultural projects with a focus on European-Ukrainian relations for 13 years.”

Programming at the 2022 Aké Festival in Lagos. Image: Aké Festival

More from us on the Torino International Book Fair is here, more on international book fairs and trade shows overall is here, more on international publishing and book related awards programs is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.