Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945

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Festival Networks: Pan-African and Diasporic Performance Culture

Judith Rottenburg’s project investigates four art festivals that took place on the African continent in the 1960s and 1970s: the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar (1966), the Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers (1969), the Zaire 74 Festival in Kinshasa (1974), and the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos (1977). The project traces forms of performance culture that emerged during the first two decades of independence of Senegal, Algeria, Zaire and Nigeria.

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 provided unique international showcases for the performing arts on the African continent and beyond. The four festivals are examined as nodes in an emerging Pan-African and diasporic network of an expanding theatrical epistemic community. This network involved 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 will provide insights into post-independence and postcolonial theatre-making.

This project aims to reveal ways in which the cosmopolitan theatrical organizational field, the corresponding epistemic community and the modes of funding – public funds, philanthropy and private donors – shaped the artistic work. It asks about the relationship between the event character of those festivals and long-term institutional developments of the performing arts.