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Five Books and Arts Festivals to watch out for in Nigeria

A typical room of the Hausa people exhibited at HIBAF22
Credit: Ikleemah Abubakar

In recent years, literary arts festivals has grown wider and accepted in many parts of the African continent, which Nigeria isn’t an exception.

Here’s a list of some books and arts festival that you need to watch out for in Nigeria:

Aké Arts and Book Festival

Aké Arts and Book Festival is a literary arts event held annually in Lagos, Nigeria. It was curated in the year 2013 by Lola Shoneyin, a Nigerian writer and poet.

The festival features new and established writers from across the African continent and other parts of the world while focusing on promoting, developing, and celebrating the creativity of African writers, poets, and artists.

Over the years, it has earned recognition as the African continent’s biggest annual gathering of literary writers, editors, critics, and readers.

However, the festival curator, Lola Shoneyin said that all she wanted was 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 of the festival was held at the Cultural Centre in Kuto, Abeokuta, 19–24 November 2013 – with a theme tagged “The Shadow of Memory.” And since then, it has been staged annually to date.

Kaduna Book and Arts Festival

The Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, also known as KABAFEST – is an annual literary, cultural, and art event in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

For the last few decades, Northern Nigeria has been regarded as a place that is too conservative for books and literature. So hence, the idea for KABAFEST was conceived – an initiative of the Kaduna State Government, as a way to address that misconception.

Lola Shoneyin was at it again, courtesy of the Book Buzz Foundation, she collaborated with the Kaduna State Government and the Gusau Institute to stage the first book and arts festival in Northern Nigeria.

With the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, Lola aim to create new and exciting opportunities for social and cultural interaction, the celebration and promotion of creatives in the Northern region of Nigeria, and foster tolerance and understanding through dialogues about books, culture, the arts, and society.

Hausa International Books and Arts Festival

The Hausa International Book and Arts Festival was curated by Sada Malumfashi, a writer living in Kaduna, Nigeria. He is also the founder and director of Open Arts, a literary collective and creative organization based in Northern Nigeria. As someone interested in the intricacies of languages, he found the inspiration to come up with the HausaBaf – to showcase the best of contemporary African literature, poetry, music, art, film, and theatre in Hausa to a target audience of thousands of youths across West Africa.

The festival which is supported by the University of Bristol, UK was staged for the first time – with the theme “Spaces” in October 2021 at the Arewa House, Kaduna, Nigeria.

Sokoto Books and Arts Festival

The Sokoto Book and Arts Festival was held for the first time in 2021 in Sokoto, Nigeria. It was organized through the collaborations of organizations like Book O’clock Review, Poetry Club UDUS, and Caliphate Arts and Literary Forum.

It was a gathering that aims to spark conversations that would spur a need for artists in the state to make a return to arts, to reconnect to the artistic nature of the state and northern Nigeria in general.

The festival included a series of virtual and in-person activities like book chats, panel discussions, art exhibitions, film screenings, plays, poetry, music, dance performances, and much more.

Borno Books and Arts Festival

The maiden edition of the Borno Books and Arts Festival held from 25th to 27th November 2022 – with the theme “Narratives.” It was curated by Sa’id Sa’ad, a writer and storyteller from Borno, Nigeria.

The festival brought together highly-placed government officials, renowned intellectuals, academicians, development workers, civic actors, writers, poets, artists, and some other creatives from the mid to east, and western parts of Northern Nigeria – to discuss and celebrate the rich cultures and creativity that surrounded Borno while painting a positive narrative of the state as it has already bounced back stronger to its feet after a decade long experience of insurgency – that’s bedeviled Nigeria’s North-Eastern region.

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