Accepted paper:

Art Festivals as Laboratories of the Postcolonial Predicament in Africa

Authors:

Tobias Wendl (Free University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

As part and parcel of a transnationally connected postcolonial culture industry, art festivals have played a crucial role in shaping identities in the fabric of local and global cultural flows and in negotiating the contradictions of colonial pasts and a postcolonial present. The festivals under study in my paper include FESMAN (Dakar 1966), PANAF (Algiers 1969) FESTAC (Lagos 1977) the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997) and the 1st Luanda Trienal (2006).

Paper long abstract:

Art Festivals as Laboratories of the Postcolonial Predicament in Africa As part and parcel of a transnationally connected postcolonial culture industry, art festivals have played a crucial role in shaping identities in the fabric of local and global cultural flows and in negotiating the contradictions of colonial pasts and a postcolonial present. My paper attempts to explore the cultural dynamics of art festivals as laboratories for the production of identity discourses and their potential in de-centering Western narratives of modernity in a globalized art world. The festivals under study include FESMAN (Dakar 1966), PANAF (Algiers 1969) FESTAC (Lagos 1977) the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997) and the 1st Luanda Trienal (2006). As a rule, all festivals were staged a few years after turning points or decisive moments in history (Independence in Senegal and Algeria (1960 and 1962), the oil boom in Nigeria after the civil war (1970), the fall of Apartheid in South Africa (1994) and the economic miracle in Angola after the peace agreement in 2002. Despite their transnational ambition and pan-African rhetoric, each of them had strong national undercurrents and served as a powerful means of post-colonial nation-branding. In addition, all festivals implicitly addressed issues of history and turned into battlegrounds for African postcolonial identity politics, oscillating between an Internationalist/globalist orientation and resistance from those keen to emphasize essentialisms and 'Africaness'.

panel P19
Anthropology in the contemporary artworld