from the 1st Pan African Congress (Paris, 1919) through the 1st World Festival of Black Arts (Dakar, 1966) to FESTAC ’77, where Sweden had larger delegation than several African countries.
The origins of FESTAC 77 go back to the spirit which first initiated the founding of literary journal Presence Africaine under Alioune Diop’s editorship in 1947.
Presence Africaine produced the first Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956 and this meeting established the Society for African Culture, which later convened the Second Congress in Rome in 1959
Under the co-patronage of Senghor and General de Gaulle, the First World Festival of Black Arts or World Festival of Negro Arts was a Franco-Senegal platform for negritude that celebrated black African culture.
As Senghor declared in his opening address, at the first festival at Dakar, “In a word, if we have assumed the terrible responsibility of organizing this festival, it is for the defense and illustration of negritude.”
In contrast to Dakar, First Pan African Cultural Festival/PANAF held in Algiers in 1969 responded to the nationalist revolutionary politics of the era and proposed culture as tool of liberation.
The tension between the two festival different understandings of the role of culture came to a head at FESTAC.
The two top positions of the festival, those of President and Secretary General were occupied by a Nigerian, Enahoro, and a Senegalese, Diop. They soon found themselves at loggerheads over North Africa’s participation in the festival.
Senegal wanted to to exclude the North Africans from the colloquium as “outsiders.” The Nigerians opposed it, on the basis of their membership in the OAU.
The Nigerian Government does not have many cultural qualities and is confusing culture with politics.” – Senghor(West Africa, June 7, 1976, p. 795.)
Senegal seems determined as the flag carrier of Francophonie” – Nigeria (West Africa, June 7, 1976, p. 795)
Senegal chose the issue of North African participation in FESTAC as a challenge to Nigeria and lost.