FESTAC 77: Showcasing African and Diasporic Culture

The event is considered a landmark celebration in the history of Africa.
FASTAC 77. [Google]
FASTAC 77Google

Festac 77, also known as the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, was a massive international festival and celebration of African culture held in Lagos from January 15 to February 12, 1977.

The month-long event is considered a landmark celebration in the history of Africa. It helped to promote a sense of pan-African unity and pride, and it showcased the richness and diversity of African culture in fine art, music, literature, drama, dance, and religion to the world.

According to Wikipedia, about 16,000 participants, representing 56 African nations and countries of the African Diaspora, performed at the event.

Nigeria did everything possible for the FESTAC 77 event to take place in 1977. The country was energised by its booming oil proceeds and led by the clever military president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. A massive housing complex named after the festival (FESTAC) was constructed to accommodate the attendees, with over 10,000 units. The complex included the following: a multipurpose theatre, exhibition halls, conference halls, and cinemas, making it a truly impressive development. 

The goals of the festival include:

  • Promote black artists, performers, and writers worldwide: It aimed to give blacks in the creative industry a platform for international recognition and access to wider audiences. Festac 77 featured music, art, literature, drama, dance, and religion from all over Africa.

  • Bring the African diaspora together: people of African descent from all over the world were invited to participate, fostering a sense of unity. It also provided an opportunity for black artists and creatives scattered around the world to reconnect with their African roots. Similarly, for black artists and creators who weren't originally from Africa, FESTAC offered a chance to reconnect with their roots.

  • Enhance global understanding: By showcasing African culture, the festival hoped to create a better understanding between Africa and the rest of the world.

FESTAC 77 led to the creation of the following permanent institutions that have become cornerstones of Nigerian arts and culture:

  • National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos: A physical symbol of FESTAC 77's legacy is the magnificent Nigerian National Theatre. This iconic landmark was constructed specifically for FESTAC 77. It is the largest theatre in Nigeria and hosts a variety of performances, from plays and musicals to concerts and dance recitals. National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. This performance venue continues to be a major hub for artistic expression, hosting a variety of events and showcasing Nigerian talent.

  • Nigerian National Council for Arts and Culture (NNCAC): Another key legacy is the establishment of the Nigerian National Council for Arts and Culture. This government agency plays a critical role in promoting Nigerian arts and culture. It organises festivals, workshops, and other programmes and also provides funding to artists and cultural ganizations. ensuring that Nigeria's diverse cultural heritage continues to flourish.

  • A Guiding Policy: Beyond the physical structures and organisations, FESTAC 77 also prompted the development of Nigeria's first official cultural policy. This policy serves as a roadmap for the nation, outlining strategies for preserving and promoting its rich artistic traditions.

  • Festac Village: This cultural complex in Lagos was constructed to accommodate participants in FESTAC 77. Currently, it houses theatres, museums, and artist studios and serves as a hub for cultural activity.

  • National Black Arts Theatre: This was not completed until after FESTAC 77; it was another product of the festival's driving force. It is committed to showcasing African and African diaspora arts and culture. 

  • Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC): This was established in 1977. The cultural centre in Lagos collects, preserves, and documents the history and culture of Africans and their descendants globally.

  • National Museum: The National Museum in Lagos was expanded in anticipation of FESTAC 77. It houses a collection of Nigerian art and artefacts, from sculptures and masks to textiles and pottery. 

These lasting institutions and the foundational cultural policy are evidence of the enduring effect of FESTAC 77. They keep on shaping Nigeria's cultural landscape, ensuring that the spirit of celebrating and fostering African and Nigerian arts remains high-spirited.

FASTAC 77  [Google]
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