[Blackstudies-l] CFP: Cultural Festivals and The Performance of Pan-Africanism (Oct 20-22) in the discussion Comparative Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature [MLA Commons]

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Jan 12 10:31:43 EST 2016

Tsitsi Jaji started the topic CFP: Cultural Festivals and The Performance
of Pan-Africanism (Oct 20-22) in the discussion Comparative Studies in
Twentieth-Century Literature

"The Performance of Pan-Africanism:
from Colonial Exhibitions to Black and African Cultural Festivals
International Conference
20-22 October, 2016
Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies,
Florida State University
Keynote speakers: Andrew Apter (UCLA), Cheryl Finley (Cornell University),
Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia University), June Givanni (Pan-African
Cinema Archive), Kwame Kwei-Armah (Center Stage)
Co-organizers: Tsitsi Jaji (University of Pennsylvania), Martin Munro
(FSU), David Murphy (University of Stirling)
Paper proposals due February 1

In April 1966, thousands of artists, musicians, performers and writers from
across Africa and its diaspora gathered in the Senegalese capital, Dakar,
to take part in the First World Festival of Black and African Culture
(Premier Festival Mondial des arts nègres). The festival constituted a
highly symbolic moment both in the era of decolonization and the push for
civil rights for African Americans in the United States. In essence, the
festival sought to perform an emerging pan-African culture, to give
concrete cultural expression to the ties that would bind the African
‘homeland’ to black people in the diaspora. On the occasion of the
50th anniversary of Dakar ’66, this conference seeks to examine the
festival and its multiple legacies, in order to help us better to
understand both the utopianism of the 1960s and the ‘festivalization’ of
Africa that has occurred in recent decades. The conference is also
interested in exploring the role of colonial exhibitions and world’s fairs
in establishing a set of representational frameworks that would later be
contested but also sometimes (unwittingly) adopted by black/African groups
in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The Dakar festival was the first, and one of the most significant, attempts
to perform and translate African culture in the era of decolonization,
forging in the space of the festivalscape a rich, multifaceted, ephemeral,
unstable but highly charged sense of a shared Pan-African culture. The
conference is interested in exploring whether cultural Pan-Africanism as
posited in postcolonial festivals acted as a complete rejection of the
representations of blackness in colonial exhibitions or whether it
sometimes in fact continued such tropes, and if so, how?

The festival was organized in the middle of a period extending from the
late 1950s to the mid-1970s during which a wide range of cultural, sporting
and political organizations were created, and major events were held, all
of which were informed by Pan-Africanist ideals. In terms of festivals
alone, the 1966 Dakar event was followed by hugely ambitious Pan-African
cultural festivals in Algiers (Algeria) in 1969 and in Lagos (Nigeria) in
1977. From an early twenty-first century perspective, the Pan-African ethos
of the period appears strikingly utopian. Nonetheless, the Pan-African
ideal has endured, in particular in the domain of culture. Indeed, it might
be argued that it was the series of cultural festivals organized in the
aftermath of decolonization that marked the most meaningful articulations
of Pan-Africanism. As was argued above, these festivals witnessed the
‘performance’ of a Pan-African culture, and they facilitated concrete
encounters between Africans and members of the diaspora that forged a new
and profound sense of cultural affiliation. For instance, in his
autobiography, Music is my Mistress (1973), the great US jazz musician Duke
Ellington wrote of his performance in Dakar in 1966: ‘the cats in the
bleachers really dig it. […] It is acceptance of the highest level and it
gives us a once-in-a-lifetime feeling of having broken through to our

If Pan-African cultural festivals of the 1960s and 1970s were marked by a
profound utopianism, over the past five decades, we have witnessed a
growing festivalization of culture across the world from which Africa has
not been exempt. There are now literally thousands of festivals held across
the continent each year and, in such a context, it is important to assess
whether any of the idealism of the past has survived. In 2010, a Third
World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (widely known as
FESMAN) was held in Dakar. For Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade,
organizing FESMAN was a process of looking to the future but also of
renewing with an idealistic, utopian Pan-Africanist past, which was
primarily articulated through evocations of the 1966 Dakar festival,
indicating that processes of recuperation, nostalgia and amnesia play a
major role when we engage today with landmark but ephemeral cultural events
from the past.

Potential topics for papers might include:

• The role of colonial exhibitions/world fairs in establishing parameters
for the representation and performance of black/African culture.

• The role of earlier events—e.g. the 1956 (Paris) and 1959 (Rome) African
Writers’ Congresses, the Makerere Writers’ conference in 1962, the First
International Congress of African Art and Culture (ICAC) organized by Frank
McEwen et al in Salisbury in 1962—in paving the way for the 1966 festival
and those that followed.

• Case studies drawn from any of the 4 major pan-African festivals of the
1960s-70s: The First World Festival of Black and African Culture 1966; The
Algiers Pan-African Cultural Festival 1969; The black music festival held
in conjunction with the Rumble in the Jungle (Kinshasa, 1974); The Second
World Festival of Black and African Culture (Lagos, 1977).

• The relationship between cultural festivals and the major Pan-African
political gatherings of the twentieth century (e.g. the various Pan-African
congresses, the creation of the Organisation for African Unity)

• Competing visions of Africa: e.g. the attacks on Negritude in Algiers;
tensions between Nigerians and Senegalese before the Lagos festival
regarding the inclusion of North Africa.

• (Pan-)African cultural festivals outside of Africa.

• How is the Caribbean history of cultural festivals like Carifesta related
to and articulated with similar events in continental Africa?

• Does the Caribbean phenomenon of carnival function as an articulation of

• Recuperation, nostalgia, amnesia

• Does festivalization necessarily connote the commodification of culture?

• How do festivals articulate the relationship between “High” and “Popular”

• Cultural pan-Africanism and Political Pan-Africanism

• The performance of identity

• Diasporic engagements with African culture in these festivals

• Print and other media representations of the festivals

Proposals for panels and papers may be submitted on the conference web

Deadline for proposals: 1 February 2016.

For further information, please contact mmunro at fsu.edu,
tsitsi.jaji at gmail.com, d.f.murphy at stir.ac.uk"

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