Ake Festival wins Aficionado award

The Aficionado Award, a new collaboration between Frankfurter Buchmesse and Torino’s book fair, has been awarded to Nigerian Lola Shoneyin for her Aké Arts and Book Festival.

Lola Shoneyin

The award, which recognizes unusual collaborations in the publishing world, was presented to Shoneyin at a dinner in her honour on October 19, 2023, at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

According to Publishing Perspectives, in their statement of rationale, board members Rebecca 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 organiser, writer, publisher, cultural  entrepreneur—and her Aké Festival were selected as an entirely worthy and  apt winner of this first award.”

Shoneyin founded the Aké Arts and Book Festival in 2013 with the goal of promoting, developing, and celebrating creativity in many parts of the African continent through public events.

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 programme, “This prioritisation 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.”

The Aficionado Award is a unique collaboration between four members of the international publishing community:

* Michael Gaeb, Literarische Agentur Gaeb & Eggers GmbH, Berlin

* Rebecca Servadio, London Literary Scouting

* Tom Kraushaar, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart

* Aleksi Siltala, Siltala Publishing, Helsinki

The award is intended to recognise and pay tribute to the people, companies, and initiatives which innovate and impress in original collaboration. Such initiatives, the program’s organisers 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.


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