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'The invention of African art': FESMAN, the first African arts festival on the continent

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The First World Festival of Black Arts, or FESMAN as it’s commonly called, was a month-long pan-African festival that occurred from April 1 to 24 in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966. (Photo: Supplied)
The First World Festival of Black Arts, or FESMAN as it’s commonly called, was a month-long pan-African festival that occurred from April 1 to 24 in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966. (Photo: Supplied)

The First World Festival of Black Arts, or FESMAN as it's commonly called, was a month-long pan-African festival that occurred from 1 to 24 April in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966. A passion project of poet-President Leopold Senghor, the festival was supposed to mark Africa, "its rightful place as a creator of culture", and "the opening of this new era".

In a film made at FESMAN by William Greaves,[1] The First World Festival of the Negro Arts, the narrator recites and then riffs off the 1921 Langston Hughes[2] poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". In the background, dhows bob up to the ocean shore, life in various forms occupies space as shadows and silhouette, and Duke Ellington walks around a museum[1] [2] , scrutinising the Negro arts, and gold masks from Benin City.[3]

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