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Senegal & Festac 77

“The Nigerian Government does not have many cultural qualities and is confusing culture with politics” – L S Senghor in West Africa Magazine, June 1976

“Senghor is a black Frenchman who attacks the progressive government of Nigeria when his masters in Paris are busy signing an agreement to provide South Africa with an atomic bomb” – Editorial in Times International (Lagos), July 1976

This exchange roughly captures the respective sentiments of the Senegalese elite and Murtala Mohammed’s people – and indeed the geopolitical stakes of FESTAC ’77, the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Lagos in January-February 1977. It is generally described as the Francophone-Anglophone split.

But of course, it is more complex – the split actually began in the early 20th between WEB duBois and Blaise Diagne, but that’s another story. It took postcolonial form during the Panafrican Festival of Algiers in 1969, where countries who had said “No!” to France (namely Algeria and Guinea) devoted all their power and creativity to take down Senghor and his negritude. By June 1976 Senegal had withdrawn from FESTAC and tried (and failed) to organise a parallel festival – France refused to back the move (Nigeria had oil and they wanted some of it). The bitterness is still felt in Dakar today.

After New York in October 2019, and in the spirit of the trans-continentalism (aka Black World) of the event, we return to Dakar to celebrate the release of Chimurenga’s new publication on FESTAC ’77 – in collaboration with RAW Material Company. Many of the Senegalese protagonists in this debate (friends and foes of Senghor) will be present – we invite them to sit down and smoke the peace pipe, and eventually to party together.

In conversation: Dialo Diop, Massamba Mbaye, Hadja Maïmouna Niang, Ousmane Sène, with Ibrahima Wane.

Followed by a DJ set of the musical archive of FESTAC ’77 by Ntone Edjabe and the legendary Dread Amala

If you are in Dakar, please join us – we begin at 5pm.

(Pics courtesy of Le Soleil, Dakar)

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