The Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77)


The Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, popularly known as Festac 77, was a boisterous cultural celebration which took place in Lagos, Nigeria, starting from January 15 1977 to February 12 1977. The festival celebrated the cultures and traditions of Africa and also presented African art works, literature, religion and music to the universe. The history of FESTAC can be traced back to the 1940s when certain ideas were developed on Pan-Africanism and Negritude by the Senegalese president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Aime Casaire and some others.

The Festac 77 was the largest pan-African gathering during the period it took place. Nigeria was called upon to host the second Festac festival after the end of the first one which was held in Dakar, Senegal (1st to 24th of April, 1966). The festival was to take place in 1970, but due to the Nigerian civil war that broke out (1967-1970), the festival was postponed to 1977. The Festac 77 festival was attended by about 17,000 people from 56 African nations. The festival paved way for the construction of the Festac Town/Village in Lagos and the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. The Nigerian government built the Festac Village to accommodate the 17,000 and above participants. The main reason the Festac Village was built was to cut the accommodation problem and pressure Lagos was likely to face.

Festac77 emblem

The celebration of the festival commenced at 9 a.m on the 15th of January, 1977. The opening ceremony took place inside the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, where many participants held a parade to welcome visiting dignitaries and the Nigerian Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo. The Festac 77 festival has the royal ivory mask of Benin as its emblem. A shango priest entertained the crowd by setting the festival bowl aflame and a thousand Pigeons were released to signify the liberation and oneness of the Black nations.
Several drama and music shows were staged at the Tafawa Balewa Square in the afternoons and evenings. musicians like Miriam Makeba from South Africa, Stevie Wonder, Louis Moholo, The Sun Ra Arkestral and so on rocked musical concerts sending their numerous fans dancing wild to their songs.

A musical show during festac77

Several countries showcased their artworks at the National Theatre, at the Nigerian National Museum and some places around the Tafawa Balewa Square.
At the Square, each country represented at the festival was given a booth to exhibit their paintings, musical instruments, woven cloths, books and art objects. Some other notable exhbitons that took place were Africa and the Origin of Man, which was held at the National Theatre, and Ekpo Eyo’s 2000 Years of Nigerian Art, which included Nok terracottas, Benin court art, Igbo Ukwu, Ife and Tsoede bronzes and art objects.

Another exhilarating event at the FESTAC 77 festival is the boat regatta held at the Queen’s Drive Foreshore in Ikoyi, Lagos, which lasted for three days. The participants of the boat regatta were mainly from Nigerian states such as Ondo, Ogun, Lagos, Imo, Edo, Kwara, etc. More than 250 boats full of acrobats, masquerades and musicians displayed at the occasion.

USA Festac77

The Festac 77 participants also made a trip to Kaduna to witness the Dubar festival which took place for three days. There was a gallant display of horse riding, dancing of the Bida Masqurades, blowing of the Kakaki trumpets and many more.

Here are the countries that attended the Festac 77 festival:-
Kenya, Zaire, Congo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Mauritius, Niger, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Malagasy, Mauritania, Botswana, Lesotho, Chad, Central Africa, Upper Volta, Morocco, Angola, Senegal, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Ghana, Libya, Zambia, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan, Algeria, Mali, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Uganda and Gambia. Some South American countries were also present at the festival, e.g Guyana, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and so on represented the Caribbean. The United states also sent their representatives from different countries.


An anthem was written for FESTAC 77 by Margaret Walker from Alabama, USA, while the music was produced by Akin Euba from Nigeria.
Here is the lyrics of the Festac 77 anthem titled, For My People.

FESTAC ’77 Anthem

1] Let a new earth arise
Let another world be born
Let a bloody peace
Be written in the sky.

Refrain: Festac 77 is here

2] Let a second generation
Full of courage issue forth
Let a people loving freedom
Come to growth

Refrain: Festac 77 is here

3] Let a beauty full of healing
And strength of final clenching
be the pulsing in our spirits
And our blood

Refrain: Festac 77 is here

4] Let the martial songs be written
Let the dirges disappear
Let the race of men now rise
And take control

Refrain: Festac 77 is here

The FESTAC 77 will forever remain a remarkable celebration in the history of Nigeria.

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