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The Biggest Collection Of Black Voices On African Soil

Africa’s leading arts and book event Aké Festival will return from 22 – 25 October with a free programme of 65 inspiring talks, workshops, panel discussions and performances from the most exciting voices across Africa and the African Diaspora, hosted on a digital platform.


Actress Kelechi Okafor

Now in its eighth year, Aké Festival is the world’s largest collection of African creative voices on African soil and hosts some of the most sought-after, innovative voices in black thought. Due to the global coronavirus crisis, Aké Festival will go digital for 2020. This online edition of the festival will be free to access by audiences all over the world, creating an important platform for the intellectually and culturally curious to take part in this celebration of Black excellence, resilience and resistance.

The theme for 2020 is African Time, in recognition of the global anti-racism movement that has gathered momentum and visibility in recent months. Audiences across the world are invited to join luminaries from contemporary fiction, non-fiction, poetry, film, theatre, music and visual arts in discussions about some of the most critical issues of our time, including race, gender, identity, equality and empathy.


Lola Shoneyin, Director and Founder: Aké Arts and Book Festival, says, “Our world has changed forever; the magnitude of recent events cannot be ignored. In 1918, African nations were in the clutches of imperial forces that degraded our stories, culture, history, language and belief systems. More than a century later, the Covid-19 pandemic finds Africa struggling with the colonial hangover of poor leadership and a predatory global order. Now is the time for Africa to recalibrate and break the cycle of betrayal by those elected to lead. It may have come later than hoped for, but, for the children of Africa everywhere, this is African Time.”



New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones.

Festival programme

Over the course of the festival, attendees will be able to participate in 27 stimulating panel discussions, 20 author talks, storytelling sessions, three workshops, a concert, poetry performances, films and a stage play. Topics under discussion will range from intersectional feminism, blacktivism and colourism, to the burgeoning post-Covid mental health crisis and decolonisation of black spaces. Panel discussion highlights include: Black Women Harnessing Anger for Social Change; Publishing While Black; Decolonising Feminism in Africa; Writing Queer, Writing Black; and Why African Needs Feminist Giants. This year’s line-up of more than 130 authors, artists and creatives, includes the likes of Tayari Jones, Petina Gappah, Tochi Onyebuchi and Mona Eltahawy, to name a few.

On the morning of 25 October, a cross-religion communion will be held with leaders and practitioners from multiple religions and beliefs including Christianity, Islam and indigenous Nigerian faiths. Together they will ask universal questions like ‘why are we here?’ from their own religious perspectives.



Writer and filmmaker Afua Hirsch

Film, music and visual arts programme

Beyond the world of literature, Aké Festival has an incredible programme of film, music, theatre and visual arts. A new art project for 202 titled WS 20 for 20 will see Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka present 20 works from his astonishing collection of African antiquities, explaining their histories and personal significances. The contemporary art exhibition curated by Jessica Byenyan Bitrus, will adopt African Time as its theme and feature artists from all over the world.

On 22 October, the new film Elders Corner will be screened. Part of Sheffield Doc Fest 2020’s Official Selection, the film traces how Nigerian music – from the colourful, celebratory sounds of Juju music to the politicised urgency of Afrobeat – has spearheaded some of Africa’s most prominent musical movements and asks what has happened to these pioneers since their heydays.

On 23 October, the Festival will be taken over by a music concert featuring some of Africa’s most celebrated artists, including: Blackman Akéeb Kareem (sometimes described as the Mick Jagger of Africa), Malian BAFTA and Academy Award nominee Fatoumata Daiware, Falana, Beautiful Nubia, Urban Village, Maia and the Big Sky, Bab L' Bluz, Akua Naru, Joyce Olong and Christine Obiamalu.

The acclaimed new theatrical work Venus vs Modernity will have its digital premiere on the evening of 24 October. Produced by poet, artist, and activist Lebogang Mashile, the play explores the life of Sara Baartman, aka the Hottentot Venus, while 25 October will be a celebration of poetry in all its forms, featuring the likes of the award-winning British slam poet and Bristol City Poet 2018-2020 Vanessa Kisuule in addition to Afurakan, Vangi Gantsho, Ola Elhassan, Yomi Sode, D'bi Anitafrika, Titilope Sonuga, Paul Ward, Jabir Malik, Poetra Asantewa and Ndukwe Onuoha.

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