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Digging into Pan-African Cultural Memory with Panafest


Circa 1969: Representatives from Mozambique’s Frelimo at the First Pan-African Cultural Festival’s opening ceremony in Algiers.

Photograph by Luc Daniel Dupire. Image courtesy of Panafest Archive.

The period of the 1960s and 70s was the height of decolonization efforts in Africa, with a spirit of Pan-Africanism pervading politics and art. Newly independent nations used art as a way to articulate their freedom and promote the value of African culture. In this feature from New Frame by Atiyyah Khan, the online archives of Panafest are noted for their importance in archiving this history at the intersection of international politics, art, and culture. Panafest is an online platform that captures stories about four of the largest gatherings in the history of the African continent: the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres (Fesman ’66), which in those times translated to First World Festival of Negro Arts, held in Dakar in 1966; The First Pan-African Cultural Festival (Panaf ’69) held in Algiers in 1969; Zaire ’74 held in Kinshasa in 1974 and the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac ’77) held in Lagos in 1977. These four festivals are still unrivaled in their celebration of African art, politics and culture.


“The political heft of the four festivals tends to be understated in mainstream historiography. They tend to be presented as ‘just arts and culture’ events . . . As meeting grounds between creators, intellectuals and political personnel on the one hand, and extremely large and varied audiences on the other hand, they provided an important way for ideas that had been previously confined to the elite to make their way into the public sphere.” - Dominique Malaquais
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