The Aké Arts and Book Festival is an annual literary, cultural, and art event that takes place in Abeokuta, Nigeria. It was founded in 2013 by Nigerian writer Lola Shoneyin. Although it has featured new and established writers from across the world, its focus has been to promote, develop and celebrate creativity on the African continent in diverse genres. The fourth edition held between 15 and 19 November 2016 with the theme “Beneath the Skin”.
Writer Lola Shoneyin started the festival because, according to her, she “wanted a place where intellectuals and thinkers can come together and talk about African issues on African soil.”
The festival is named after Aké, a town in Abeokuta, Ogun State, where Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature Wole Soyinka was born in 1934.
The first edition held at the Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, from 19 to 24 November 2013. The theme of the festival was “The Shadow of Memory”. One of its major highlights was an event titled “The Shadow of Memory”, where four young Nigerians, under the age of 21, had the opportunity to quiz Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka on his life and times.
Guests at the maiden edition were A. Igoni Barrett, Abraham Oshoko, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Adepero Oduye, Aita Ighodaro, Akweake Zara Emezi, Ayesha Pande, Alan Bisset, Ayisha Osori, Ayodele Olofintuade, Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, Ayo Obe, Binyavanga Wainaina, Bola Edwards, Charles Novia, Chibundu Onuzo, Christie Watson, Chuma Nwokolo, Doreen Baingana, Efe Paul Azino, Eghosa Imasuen, Erin Haney, Femi Elufowoju Jr, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, Funmi Iyanda, Godwin Alabi Isama, Ikhide Ikheloa, Iquo Bassey, Kaine Agary, Kayode Fayemi, Ken Wiwa, Kunle Ajibade, Line Hoven, Lisa Teasley, Lolade Siyonbola, Mamle Kabu, Marlon James, Michela Wrong, Molara Wood, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Muthoni Garland, Natalia Molebatsi, Nomboniso Gasa, Olaokun Soyinka, Olakunle Kasunmu, Patrick Okigbo, Paula Sofowora, Peter Akinlabi, Pius Adesanmi, Remi Raji, Richard Ali, Rotimi Babatunde, Segun Adeniyi, Sitawa Namwalie, Syl Cheney-Coker, Teju Cole, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Toni Kan, Tope Folarin, Tolu Ogunlesi, Victor Dlamini, Victor Ehikhamenor, Wale Adebanwi, Wana Udobang, Wole Soyinka, Yaba Badoe, and Yewande Omotoso.
The second edition was held from 18–22 November≈ 2014. The theme was “Bridges and Pathways”.
Invited guests were Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Ayisha Osori, Ayodele Olofintuade, Ayo Sogunro, Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, Barnaby Phillips, Bassey Ikpi, Ben Aaronovitch, Beverley Nambozo, Binyavanga Wainaina, Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, Bryony Rheam, Bwesigye Mwesigire, Chinelo Onwualu, Chijioke Amu Nnadi, Clifton Gachagua, Chude Jideonwo, Dami Ajayi, E. E. Sule, Efe Paul Azino, Edwige Dro, Eghosa Imasuen, Emmanulle Mougne, Femi Elufowoju Jr, G. O. Ogbowei, Jeku Ozoemene, Jumoke Verissimo, Jerome Okolo, Hawa Golakai, Iheoma Obibi, Kei Miller, Kaine Agary, Kelechi Njokwu, Kola Tubosun, Kunle Afolayan, Lizzy Attree, Marcus Boni Teiga, Michael Peel, Molara Wood, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Nike Campbell-Fatoki, Nanama Acheampong, Nze Sylva Ifedigbo, Nnedi Okorafor, Okey Ndibe, Olufemi Terry, Olusegun Obasanjo, Patrick Okigbo, Qudus Onikeku, Remi Raji, Rotimi Amaechi, Rotimi Babatunde, Tayo Aluko, Stella Duffy, Toni Kan, Uche Umez Peter, Wale Okediran, Wole Soyinka, Yejide Kilanko, Yona Oyegun Masade, Vera Bottersbutch, Zukiswa Wanner, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Fubaraibi Benstowe, and Samuel Kolawole.
The 2015 edition, themed “Engaging the Fringe”, was held between 17 and 21 November.
It had in attendance over 80 world renowned writers, visual and performing artistes, researchers, and scholars. The official opening ceremony held on Wednesday, 18 November 2016, and it featured speeches from the Executive Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS Michel Arrion, as well as Director of Marine Platforms Baji Nyam. The festival was headlined by poet Niyi Osundare, who was also on the cover of the festival magazine Aké Review. Other notable writers present included Helon Habila, Binyavanga Wainaina, Mona Elthahawy, Chris Abani, Véronique Tadjo, Pierre Cherruau, E. C. Osondu, Taiye Selasi, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, and Nnedi Okorafor.
The edition featured exhibitions of photographs titled Margins and Marginalisation by Andrew Esiebo and Shadows and Dreams by Tyna Adebowale. Hear Word, a play directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa, was staged at the event.
Guests were A. Igoni Barrett, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Adeeko Ibukun, Adeola Fayehun, Adeola Opeyemi, Ainehi Edoro, Aye-Ola Mabiaku, Ayo Sogunro, Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Chijioke Amu Nnadi, Chris Abani, Dami Ajayi, Diekoye Oyeyinka, Dilman Dila, E. C. Osondu, Efe Paul Azino, Eghosa Imasuen, Ekow Duker, Elizabeth Adeolu, Emma Shercliff, Emmanuel Iduma, Florence Kayemba, Florent Couao-Zotti, Frankie Edozien, Freedom Onuoha, Funto Boroffice, Helon Habila, Howard French, Inua Ellams, Irenosen Okojie, Jane Kalu, Jude Dibia, Jumoke Verissimo, Kadaria Ahmed, Kate Haines, Kinna Likimani, Kola Tubosun, Kolade Arogundade, Kunle Ajibade, Maaza Mengiste, Mehul Gohil, Molara Wood, Mona Eltahawy, Niran Okewole, Niyi Osundare, Nnedi Okorafor, Nnimmo Bassey, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Obinna Udenwe, Olaokun Soyinka, Omitonade Ifawemimo, Patrick Okigbo, Pemi Aguda, Kagayi Peter, Pierre Cherruau, Pius Adesanmi, Remi Raji, Siphiwo Mahala, Taiye Selasi, Titilope Sonuga, Toni Kan, Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Vamba Sherif, Véronique Tadjo, Victor Ehikhamenor, Wana Udobang, Xavier Moyet, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, Zukiswa Wanner, Tyna Adebowale, Andrew Esiebo, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Colette Braeckman, Imanni Da Silva, Thierry Michel, Rachel Zadok, and Bisi Alimi.
The Aké Review is the official publication of the Festival. It is published in English, Yorùbá and French.
The 2014 edition was co-edited by Oyebade Dosunmu and Lola Shoneyin.
The 2015 edition was co-edited by Kola Tubosun and Kolade Arogundade. Each edition features “10 Questions” — a series of 10 questions answered by Ake Festival guests. In addition, the publication features longer interviews, short fiction, poetry, photography and art. In the 2015 edition of Aké Review, there was an in-depth interview with poet and teacher Niyi Osundare, who also appeared on the cover, as well as an interview with 2015 Caine Prize winner Namwali Serpell.
The 2016 edition of the Review was edited by Molara Wood. It features on its cover the famous Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o who was also a headliner at the festival. It also featured interviews with Ngugi (conducted by Mọlara Wood), with Mahammat Saleh Haroun and with Odafe Atogun (both conducted by Lola Shoneyin).