Art of a Continent

On the African continent, sociopolitical developments in the 1960s engendered profound changes in the cultural sector. The wide-sweeping success of independence movements generated a new class of political leaders and government officials tasked with defining what an oeuvre of national artworks might include. This process of visual identity construction took place not only in the context of art schools and universities, but within existing or newly-founded national museums and cultural institutions. At the same time, the proliferation of international festivals across Africa in the 1960s and 70s served as major points of confluence for a diverse array of local, national and global perspectives, for example, the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres, organized in Dakar in 1966. In seeking to unpack the wealth of connections therein, this strand explores the significant transformations which took place across the continent at this time as manifest in the work of (then) contemporary African artists. Our inquiries into these dynamic milieus have focused on the following countries: Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Uganda, Liberia, Mali, Cameroon, Angola, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Further research and site visits throughout Africa in the summer of 2019 and for the duration of the project will further establish important partnerships in working to delineate the ‘Art of a Continent.’

Duke Ellington at FESMAN, 1966.

Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El-Salahi, in his studio, mid-1960s.

President Leopold Senghor viewing African art exhibit during FESMAN, 1966.