By Godwin Okondo
A celebration of the cinematic excellence of Netflix blockbuster Jagun Jagun and its making, Palmwine and Poetry segment, among an exciting and dynamic blend of cultural elements, will be on parade as Ake Arts and Book Festival 2023 opens on Wednesday, November 23 to 25, 2023 in Ikeja, Lagos. It’s the 11th edition of Aké Arts and Book Festival (AABF) and it promises a unique experience for attendees. The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Blood Ties,’ and will be the focal point of Aké Review 2023 that delves into the intricate web of family dynamics, relationships, loss and unity. A concert will feature Bantu playing known classics from the coast of West Africa.
Set against the vibrant backdrop of BON Hotel Ikeja Residence in GRA Lagos, the festival is set to attract a diverse array of talent, with writers, poets, artists, storytellers, dancers, actors, musicians and intellectuals converging for three days of immersive cultural exploration. At a recent briefing in Lagos, Festival Director, Lola Shoneyin, expressed gratitude for the ongoing support from partners Sterling Bank and Luminate, and emphasised their commitment to celebrating creativity and fostering discussions that empower youth.
“Aké Arts and Book Festival is delighted to partner with Sterling Group and Luminate who have consistently supported our goal of celebrating and promoting creativity while facilitating discussions that empower the youth,” Shoneyin said, adding that there will also be a book quiz this year, “We are testing how much our attendees know about African books and authors. We have lots of book prizes to give away, as well as much from our sponsors and partners. There is a segment sponsored by PublisHer, and it is an opportunity for women in publishing and those who aspire to pursue careers in publishing to meet leaders and mentors within the African publishing industry and beyond.”
A panel session a previous Ake Arts and Book Festival
Also, this year’s edition will see the introduction of The Africa Right Forum, a platform aimed at equipping agents and editors in Nigeria and across Africa to navigate the global rights market. Three international literary agents, including Stephanie Steiker from the United States, Pierre Astier from France, and Emma Shercliff from the United Kingdom, as well as Lucie Campos, director of the Lyon- based cultural institute, Villa Gillet, will engage with writers and artists at the festival. The Festival Director Fellowship takes centrestage, and honours individuals from The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Norway. These esteemed guests, including Willemijn Lamp, Lavina Frey, Kholod Saghir, Estefania Calanes Perez, Angeles Jurado and Teresa Grotan, will contribute to the festival’s rich tapestry.
The programme boasts of stimulating panel discussions covering a diverse range of topics, complemented by 11 book chats where writers delve into their themes, characters and the enchanting worlds they create. Notable highlights include Femi Adebayo’s conversation with Fadekemi Olumide-Aluko on the creation of Jagun Jagun. Beyond literary discussions, the festival promises diverse entertainment, including a palm wine poetry night, a concert and a special event for women in publishing. This unique opportunity will allow aspiring female professionals to connect with leaders and mentors within the African publishing industry and beyond, fostering growth and collaboration. Organised by Book Buzz Foundation, the festival has brought over 1,000 writers, poets, musicians, actors, filmmakers, artists and thinkers together to celebrate creativity, network and share stories.
According to the organisers of Ake Festival, “We pride ourselves in featuring the finest writers of African descent at Ake Festival. Our hour-long book chats are hosted by book lovers who tease out the juiciest secrets from our guest writers. From characterisation to plot, from writing style to thematic preoccupation, our book chats are lively and memorable. This year, we will be celebrating the magic of storytelling and the art of the written word with Petina Gappah, DK Nnuro, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Bisi Adjapon, Kojo Koram, Priya Hein, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, Segun Aganga, Omolola Ogunyemi and many more authors.
“Conversations at Aké Festival are open, honest and constructive. Ake Arts and Book Festival is a safe space. We encourage our speakers to talk through uncomfortable topics and we always have brilliant moderators. This year, we have fantastic speakers who will discuss topics like the democratisation of knowledge, using film to drive narrative change in Africa, publishing in Africa, the impact of AI and so much more.
“Jagun Jagun knocked our socks off and took us on a journey through storytelling. The visual artistry transported us to a different age, evoked a myriad of emotions, and sparked long and heated conversations. Now number 5 on Netflix’s non-English films list, we are excited to host the brains behind Jagun Jagun. Following the screening of behind-the-scenes footage, Shoneyin will sit with actor, director and producer Femi Adebayo.”