5 Nigerian literary festivals to watch out for in 2020

Lola Shoneyin, Mona Eltahawy, and Zukiswa Wanner at the Ake Arts and Book Festival

There are a good number of literary and arts festivals taking place this year. Here, Bookshelf offers you a list of five.


A cross-section of guests at ALItFest Photo: ALitFest

Literary and arts festivals continue to rise in number as the years go by. Some of them include the Abuja Literary and Arts Festival (ALitFest), Kaduna Book and Arts festival (KABAFEST), Aké Arts and Book Festival, Association of Nigerian Authors Convention, and Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF).


The Abuja Literary and Arts Festival debuted in 2018 in Nigeria’s capital city. Themed ‘Arts and Social Consciousness’, last year’s event held from July 11 to 13. Discourse revolved around topics such as ‘Emerging Literary Voices’, ‘Political Reportage, Press Freedom and Responsibility’, ‘Conflicts, Resentments and Historical Narratives’, and several more.

According to what was written on the festival website, the 2019 event aimed to build on the objectives of the previous festival, and further them by examining how Art can change the world and be a socially conscious tool across the different ideological leanings existent globally and more specifically, across the continent and Nigeria in particular. Guests included writers such as Chuma Nwokolo, Toni Kan, Olusegun Adeniyi and international ones like Christopher Merrill, Tom Sleigh and January Gill O’Neil and many more.

ALitFest is directed by Buchi Onyegbule, an on-air personality known for anchoring The Morning Mojo on WeFm Abuja.


The Kaduna Book and Arts festival (KABAFEST) will be holding its fourth edition this year. It’s arguably the biggest creatives gathering in the northern part of the country. A four-day programme, it includes book chats, workshops, performances, art exhibitions, film screenings and many more.

Last year’s event, which took place from September 11 to 14 featured a particularly good number of creatives and thinkers, both local and international, such as American-Based Nigerian Tope Folarin, Zukiswa Wanner, Sibongile Fisher, Safiya Ismaila Yero, Nnamdi Oguike and so on. Also, discussions revolved around rape, feminism and religion among others.

The festival is made possible by the Kaduna State Government in partnership with the Book Buzz Foundation run by the writer and publisher Lola Shoneyin.

Aké Festival

This particular gathering is almost a decade old and arguably one of Africa’s finest, both in terms of attendance and the range of creatives it brings together. Formally held in Abeokuta, Ogun State, it has since relocated to Lagos. It’s also curated by Lola Shoneyin who tries to bring in something fresh each year.

The 2019 event, themed ‘Black Bodies, Grey Matter’, brought together people like Chika Unigwe, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Ade Bantu, Ayobami Adebayo, Dakore Egbuson-Akande and many others.

ANA Convention

The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) holds its annual convention/literary and arts festival in different states each year. Last year’s host was Enugu where writers and artists came together to discuss and network. Themed Literature, Nationalism and the Poetics of Integration, the 2019 event which took place from October 31 to November 3 had as its keynote speaker Prof. E.E. Sule and Prof. Ernest Emenyonu as a special guest.

ANA’s convention is usually an avenue for giving awards for various prizes run by the association. These include the ANA/NECO Teen Author Prize and ANA/NDDC Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Prose, among others.


Debuting in 1999, the Lagos Book and Art Festival is a place for publishers, literary activists, book lovers and artists. It expanded in 2017 into a seven-day event tagged ‘Feast of Ideas and Life’, featuring reading sessions, conversations around books and ideas, book exhibitions, arts and craft, creative workshops, music, and dance.

Themed ‘Emerge…Breaking into the New’, premised on the notion of breaking free from the shackles of social, economic, political and cultural factors that inhibit the progress of the individual and the nation, the 21st edition (2019) was dedicated to the memory of the artist, Dr. David Herbert Dale.


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