The role of FESTAC in shaping the development philosophy and strategy of the African Union.
Post Festac 77, no public function, “involving even the obscurest local government official was complete without the ritual culturalist dessert of half-nude dancing maidens or hooting old women clad in raffia, being served red hot.” (Denis Ekpo)
FESTAC thus generalised a paradigm of culture as what the poor in Africa use to entertain the rich.
Accordingly, the first major attempt by Africa to define its post-colonial path to modernity, the famous “Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa, 1980–2000” (Lagos Plan of Action), adopted by the OUA in 1980, was infused from conception to execution with the cultural-nationalist motifs of FESTAC 77.
disastrous voluntarism of the African path to development.” – Dennis Ekpo
More recent OUA policy documents such as the Mbeki-Obasanjo-Bouteflicka led NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development adopted in 2001) have served to instrumentalised culture further, toward on one hand, a UNESCO-driven vision of culture as heritage and on the other, as a tool for development.
As critics such as Achille Mbembe point out, in the official, state-sanctioned discourse, culture is completely subsumed under the doxa of “development” and “poverty eradication”.
In his analysis of the failures of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Mbembe calls for African states to distance themselves from an understanding of culture as pastness, a simple matter of customs and traditions, monuments and museums.