Culture, race, and the welfare state: the British contribution to the 1966 First World Festival of Black and African Culture

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Pan-African festivals on the African continent have become a critical focal point for Africanist scholars from a range of disciplines in recent years, offering a range of fresh archival sources and revealing the plurality of pan-African discourse and forms of solidarity from the 1960s to the present day. This article analyses the British contribution to the First World Festival of Negro Arts, which took place in Dakar in April 1966 under the leadership of Senegalese President and poet Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Senegalese intellectual and founder of the influential journal, Présence Africaine, Alioune Diop. This North-South encounter is less-documented than the trans-Atlantic and inter-African cultural exchanges in this period which dominate existing scholarship on pan-African festivals and Black internationalism. As such, this paper contributes a fresh transnational dimension to current understanding of early Black British cultural production, its pan-African dimensions, and its institutional contexts in the mid-twentieth century. Involving cultural institutions such as the British Museum, the BBC and the nascent Arts Council, Britain’s contribution to Dakar ’66, was symptomatic of a post-war cultural zeitgeist faced with the context of decolonization and the aftermath of empire. The organising committee depended on these pillars of the post-war liberal establishment, while providing an unprecedented opportunity for black artists and performers (many of whom
were first-generation migrants from the Caribbean) based in the UK to gain professional recognition, visibility, and connections on the African continent forged through first-hand experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-34
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Black British theatre
  • Senegal
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Cultural policy
  • Twentieth century
  • Negro Theatre Workshop
  • Jazz
  • Festivals


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