Lola Shoneyin‘s Lagos-based Aké Arts and Book Festival wins the first ever Aficionado Award for improving the quality of international publishing through its efforts.

The aim of the Aficionado Award is to recognize and pay tribute to the people, companies, and initiatives which innovate in original collaboration to improve the quality of publishing. The mission of this award is to make visible the wonders of the publishing industry—to learn, teach and share ideas about the important questions central to publishing.

Book fairs – Frankfurter Buchmesse and Italy’s Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino – collaborated on the award by putting together a board of founders: Michael Gaeb, Literarische Agentur Gaeb & Eggers GmbH, Berlin; Rebecca Servadio, London Literary Scouting; Tom Kraushaar, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart; and Aleksi Siltala, Siltala Publishing, Helsinki. The group of four presented the shortlisted contestants at the Torino International Book Fair in May, and asked attendees to choose the winner.

The board stated that selecting the shortlist was a difficult process, but they 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.”

Nigerian poet and writer Lola Shoneyin is the author of the novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, three poetry collections, and children’s book Mayowa and the Masquerades. She is the powerhouse behind Aké Festival’s immense success. Check out last year’s festival highlights here.

According to the Aficionado Award program, Aké has gone above and beyond its role as a literary festival:

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 . . . 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.

Shoneyin will be honored in Frankfurt on October 19, with a dinner in celebration of her and her Aké Festival. Congrats to Shoneyin!