esprit_muralKnown to many as the Festival Mondial des Arts Negres, the third edition of the World Festival of Black Arts takes places this year in Dakar, Senegal December 10-31, welcoming visitors and artists from around the world in a festivity of arts, culture, and independence.

Sometimes referred to as Fesman, the festival brings a spirit of celebration: of arts, culture, and music of course, but also of independence, pride, and solidarity. The first of its kinds took place in Dakar in 1966, initiated by then Senegalese President, Leopold Senghor. Just a few years after Senegal gained independence from France, the festival came at a time where the black struggle for civil rights was faced with many obstacles but still seemed steady and perhaps even promising. In America, activists were making strides in the American Civil Rights Movement, and Africa as a whole was moving to end colonization. The festival was as political as it was artistic, and it was in this context that the 1966 edition sought to both restore and display the noblesse of black Africans from their own cultural and artistic viewpoints.

Its goal was to “allow the largest number possible of African artists and artists of African descent to meet each other and make themselves known to the largest audience possible in an atmosphere of tolerance, mutual esteem, and intellectual blossoming.”

A second edition of the festival took place in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. With the eyes of the world still on Africa due to its emerging economic potential and of course, the World Cup earlier this year, the 2010 edition is one of optimism, bringing a vision of an Africa  liberated, creative, and  proud.  French-speaking Africa and other African nations like Nigeria celebrate now 50 years of Independence. To reflect these visions, the 2010 World Festival of Black Arts has put together a superb traditional and international selection displaying artistic cleverness, rich heritage, and great achievement of Africa and its Diaspora:

Throughout almost the entire month, a variety of disciplines will be represented through performances, exhibitions, and presentation: dance, theatre, cinema, black music, traditional African architecture, science, technology, fashion, literature, design, photography, painting and other visual mediums. In wake of the first World Cup to take place on African soil, sports events will also contribute to the spirit of the festival. Soccer, foot races, boating, and wrestling will all have their place at this year's festivities.

senegal_ladiesAs the event attempts to embody the diverse heritage, culture, influences, and achievements of Africans and the African diaspora, programs honoring women and urban youth will have place as well. Women who have contributed in the areas of politics, arts, economics, or otherwise will be honored at a special event, and young people will have a chance to showcase their talents in an urban culture show that includes arts that demonstrate the diversity and youth of the diaspora: like break dance, DJing, Zouglou dance, and graffiti art, and music such as hip-hop, reggae, raï, and Kwaito. Each style hails from different countries of Africa and the Diaspora, for example raï music from Algeria, reggae music from Jamaica, kwaito from South Africa, hip-hop from the U.S., and zouglou from the Ivory Coast.

gastronomie-plat-tagineOf course, a black arts festival would not be complete without some culinary indulgence of Africa and of the Diaspora. The World Festival of Black Arts will include traditional as well as modern interpretations of foods that demonstrate the richness of black gastronomy.

A diverse and far-reaching diaspora, the Diaspora of the African extends across the continent itself and also beyond its borders.  Chosen due to its diversity of people as well as its 80 million inhabitants of African descent, Brazil will be the guest of honor for this year’s festival. Brazil’s rich culture will be represented in each of the festivals disciplines. Two galas as well as parades and dances will showcase Brazilian heritage, influences, arts, traditions, music, and cuisine.

All of this and much more will make the 2010 World Festival of Black Arts an event to remember. Don't miss it! More information can be found at: http://blackworldfestival.com.

Also, check out the video clip in the column on the right for some inspiration from Fesman 1966!