AV Club: Lola Shoneyin dishes on Ake, literature and everything else on Culture Diaries

Get to know her.

Wana Udobang’s Culture Diaries is interesting for all kinds of reasons. In the digital media space, there seems to be an obsession with virality, with media jargon like ‘conversion rates’ and demographic, and media companies seem obsessed with eyeballs rather than content. The result is that more often than not, the ideas that eventually go from idea to fruition are ideas that incorporate millennials and a mix of some form of manufactured friction or drama. Udobang’s Culture Diaries takes an entirely different trajectory; focusing on niche audiences and bringing much older, distinguished creators from different disciplines and allow them peel away the layers of mystery and mystique that often obscures the artist/creator and makes their art inaccessible. Their latest episode however is extra special because the guest is writer, poet and curator Lola Shoneyin.

It couldn’t be more timely considering it is less than a month before the fifth edition of the Ake Books and Arts Festival, which Shoneyin founded in 2013 and has grown in the intervening years and become a mecca of sorts for writers, readers, artists and other creators. Outside of literary circles, the Ake Festival isn’t quite understood because Book Festivals aren’t really a thing that is accessible to non-literary folk. By and large the Ake Festival has cracked this code by diversifying the palate at Ake, with art exhibitions, artist talks, musical performances and plays. At Udobang’s succinct urging, Shoneyin breaks down her motivations for starting the Festival, and how the festival has helped hundreds of readers connect with their mentors and each other, and how the festival has become a place of validation for younger writers struggling to find a place in Nigeria’s restrictive culture.

It was also pretty interesting to hear Shoneyin talk about her writing, and especially her critically acclaimed book¬†The Many Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, which is as beloved as it is controversial and what she intends to do in the future, especially as regards literacy.

If you ever wanted to know a little more about Lola Shoneyin, or Ake, or just literacy as a whole, this is one you should watch.

Watch Culture Diaries here.


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