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Fri, 04.01.1966

The First World Festival of Black Arts is Held

*The first World Festival of Black Arts was held on this date in 1966. Also known as FESMAN, it is a month-long culture and arts festival in Africa every ten years.

The festival features poetry, sculpture, painting, music, cinema, theatre, fashion, architecture, design, and dance from artists and performers around the African Diaspora. The festivals were planned as Pan-African celebrations and ranged in content from debate to performance, particularly dance and theatre.

The First World Festival of Black Arts or World Festival of Negro Arts was held in Dakar, Senegal, from April 1–24, 1966, initiated by former President Leopold Senghor, under the auspices of UNESCO, with the participation of 45 African and European, Caribbean, and North and South American countries, and featuring black literature, music, theater, visual arts, film, and dance. Participants in 1966 included historian Cheikh Anta Diop; dancers Arthur Mitchell and Alvin Ailey; Mestre Pastinha, a Capoeira troupe from Bahia; Duke Ellington; Marion Williams; singers Julie Akofa Akoussah and Bella Bellow; writers Aimé CésaireLangston HughesWole SoyinkaAmiri Baraka, and Sarah Webster Fabio.

The filmmaker William Greaves made a 40-minute documentary of the event entitled The First World Festival of Negro Arts (1968). Italian journalist Sergio Borelli produced Il Festival de Dakar (1966), a 50-minute documentary for RAI. In 1977.

From January 15 to February 12, the Second World Festival of Black Arts, or Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, known as FESTAC '77, took place in Lagos, Nigeria. Attended by more than 17,000 participants from over 50 countries, it was the largest cultural event ever held on the African continent. Among the artists who took part were Stevie Wonder, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Donald Byrd from the US, Tabu Ley and Franco from the Congo, Gilberto Gil from Brazil, Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea, and Louis Moholo, Dudu Pukwana, and Miriam Makeba from South Africa.

The 2010 World Festival of Black Arts took place from December 10–31, 2010, again in Senegal with the theme of African Renaissance. In the countries President's 2009 address at the UN, he said: "I call all Africans, all the sons, and daughters of the Diaspora, all my fellow citizens, all the partners that are ready to walk by our side, all States, all international organizations, foundations, firms, etc. for a shining success for this Festival, and for the rise of a new Africa." Kwame Kwei-Armah curated it, and participants at the opening ceremony included Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal, Angélique Kidjo, Toumani Diabaté, Wyclef Jean, Euzhan Palcy, Carlinhos Brown, and the Mahotella Queens. As well as music and cinema, the festival featured art exhibitions, theatre, and dance performances, fashion shows, photography, and other events, with the participation of artists and intellectuals from dozens of African and African diaspora countries, including the US, Brazil, Haiti, France, and Cuba.

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Come, brother, come. Let's lift it; Come now, hewit! COTTON SONG by N. Jean Toomer.
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