Sunday, 15 January 2017


Dancers at FESTAC 77

I had asked some graduates reading at the CRIMMD FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY what is FESTAC 77. Their response amazed me, 'it is a town after Mile 2. I am sure that must inhabitants of FESTAC don't the history. 43 years ago, today FESTAC was declared open.
FESTAC '77 - the Second World Black and African 'Festival of Arts and Culture' was held in Lagos Nigeria after the first in Dakar, 1966. It was held from January 15, 1977 to February 12, 1977. A month-long celebration of African culture that showcased to the world, African music, fine art, literature, drama, dance and religion with about 16,000 participants, representing 56 African nation and countries of the African Diaspora. Great artists like Stevie Wonder, Gilberto Gil from Brazil, Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea, Mighty Sparrow, Miriam Makeba  and many others performed. FESTAC '77  emblem was the royal ivory mask of Benin.

Women dressed in the colors of FESTAC '77

President Olusegun Obasanjo declaring FESTAC 77 open

symbol of FESTAC 77

FESTAC was inspired by the ideas on Négritude and Pan-Africanism in the 1940s, by Aimé Césaire and Leopold Sedar Sénghor. The First World Festival of Black Arts was held in Dakar, Senegal, April, 1–24 1966, at the end of the first festival, Nigeria was invited to host the second festival in 1970 so as to promote a continuation of black unity through cultural festivals but for the civil war, it was moved on to 1977.
Preparation for the FESTAC started on October 3, 1972, when the International Festival Committee met for the first time and decided that the festival would be held in November 1974. The name of the festival was changed from "World Black Festival of Arts and Culture" to "Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture" so as to accommodate the realities of African unity. The date was further changed to November 1975. The organizers divided countries into 16 geographical zones, each zones having a committee made up of representatives of peoples of African descent; the chairman of each zone would become a member of the International Festival Committee. The committee acted as the administrative arm of the Festival.

The hosting of the festival led to the establishment of the Nigerian National Council of Arts and Culture, FESTAC '77 Village and the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. The housing estate known as FESTAC '77 Village was constructed as accommodation for about 17,000 participants. However, the long-term objective of the village under the Federal Housing Programme was to relieve some of the housing pressure in Lagos. The housing estate was proposed for construction within two years, with more than 40 contractors working on different sites of the project. In total 5,088 dwelling units were built prior to the festival and an additional 5,687 were to be completed by the end of 1977. During the festival, the housing estate was the venue for performance rehearsals and interaction by participants as various troupes rehearsed their routines in the day and at night.

mighty sparrow performed at FESTAC 77

For hosting the performances and lectures, a state-of-the-art multipurpose theatre was built, to serve also as a lasting centre of African art and culture. The theatre's design was based on the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria, it looks like a military cap. The new complex had two exhibition halls, a 5,000-capacity performance and event hall, a conference hall with 1,600 seats and two cinema halls. The theatre hosted dance, music, art exhibitions, cinema, drama and the colloquium.
FESTAC '77 was declared open on January 15, 1977 inside the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. One of the highlights of the ceremony was a parade of participants representing 48 countries marching past visiting dignitaries, diplomats and the Nigerian Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo. To symbolize the freedom and unity of Black peoples 1,000 pigeons were released and a shango priest was invited to set the festival bowl aflame.

Miriam Makebe from South Africa performed at FESTAC 77

Steve Wonder performed at FESTAC 77

cultural display at FESTAC 77

Events where held in four main venues: the National Theatre, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos City Hall and Tafawa Balewa Square. Daily from 9 am to midnight.
A colloquium was at held daily during first two weeks of activities, with about 700 writers, artists and scholars participating.
During the festival from February 5, to February 8, 1977 a FESTAC '77 durbar was held in Kaduna, a pageant that had emirs riding with their entourage of cavalry, camels, and entertainers as a sign of unity. The durbar was a display of horsemen and entertainers such as musicians playing horns, Kakakitrumpets, the tambari and drums, among the entourage were Fulani, Bori and Bida masqueraders.
For the durbar to be effective a total of 2,003 (two thousand and three) 45-seater luxury buses and 91 (ninety-one) 26-seater buses were purchased to make transportation easy considering the distance from Lagos to Kaduna, a city that is more than 700 kilometers from Lagos. There was a boat regatta event staged in Lagos, a three-day event performed at Queen's Drive foreshore in Ikoyi, Lagos. Participants were principally from Nigeria and the states represented were Edo, Cross River, Imo, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo and Lagos states. Each boat had an assemble of musicians, acrobats or masquerades and dancers. More than 200 boats were involved in the event.

Dr James in the main hall where FESTAC 77 was held

Dr James in front of the National Arts Theatre, venue of FESTAC 77

Years after FESTAC '77, No other FESTAC have been held in any other African country and the festival town FESTAC '77 has lost its original master plan. The national Theater building is begging for repair and care.


  1. Beautiful piece sir,

  2. Always an awesome pleasure to "experience" your historical research "throwbacks" DrRaph James the Saint

  3. Wow, incredible DrRaphael James. I can't believe why most just do not pay attention to such beautiful belongings? Very intriguing,informative information my dearest friend. I will always carry this beauty with me. Excellent writing my dearest friend ��❤

  4. Wow, incredible DrRaphael James. I can't believe why most just do not pay attention to such beautiful belongings? Very intriguing,informative information my dearest friend. I will always carry this beauty with me. Excellent writing my dearest friend ��❤