Festival Networks and Pan-African Performance Culture
Judith Rottenburg’s project focuses on the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in 1966 and the Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers in 1969. By bridging the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone divide inherited from colonialism as well as the two-block system of the cold war, these non-aligned and cosmopolitan festivals provide unique international showcases for the arts on the African continent and beyond. The festivals are examined as nodes in an emerging Pan-African and diasporic network of an expanding theatrical epistemic community. This network involves both official cultural diplomacy and oppositional investments by artists, writers, stage directors, and choreographers from the African continent and its diaspora in the USA, the Caribbean and Brazil. An analysis of the multi-faceted organizational field and its funding mechanisms provides insights into post-independence and postcolonial theatre-making during the cultural cold war.
Global historical happenings such as the Slave Trade, Colonization, World War II and the integration of oppositional voices or movements against them are widely assumed to have had a profound influence or impact on the socio-political, economic, and cultural landscape of Postcolonial Africa; spawning, as it were, ideational gentrifications that could, arguably, be said to have spurred the emergence, development and diversity of performance culture across the continent. Notably, the philosophy and activism of movements like the slave trade abolitionist group, negritude, nationalist political organizations, liberation movements as well as arts and cultural troupes / groups sponsored or funded nationally and from the diaspora seems to have created a network of collaborations with the goal of forging a renaissance in African identity as expressed / exhibited through various international cultural and arts festivals held in Africa from 1966 to 1977 and beyond.
Under the project sub-theme entitled "Festival Networks and Pan-African Post-Colonial Performance Culture", Gideon Morison shall examine the Second World Black Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) which was held between January 15th and February 12th 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria. Whilst drawing theoretical foundations from multivariate ideologies including Pan-Africanism, Postcolonialism, Actor-Network Theory and utilizing the historical/archival research methods as well as the Gephi network analysis instrument, the research shall contextually examine how the network of experts, donors, actors and soft or subtle 'techno-political' power influenced the conception, organisation and dissemination of FESTAC '77. Beyond this, the study shall assess the controversies and contested legacies of the event by tracking the viability of its contributions toward the renaissance of black/African culture as well as the potential linkages (or lack thereof) existing between FESTAC '77 and festivals like the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) held in Ghana biannually since 1992.