Worldmade communities is a programme of talks, discussions, seminars and performances presented from 4–10 February 2024 as part of the fourth Lagos Biennial. A meeting of artists, activists, scholars and theorists from around the world, it takes place within one of two Shadow Pavilions – site-specific architectural interventions extending below the concrete towers of the biennial site of Tafawa Balewa Square. The programme summons the powerful spirit of FESTAC ‘77, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. FESTAC remains today an unsurpassed pan-African cultural event which brought together over 16,000 artists, activists, musicians, writers, and scholars from 59 countries from across Africa and the global diaspora, as well as linking communities as far flung as Indigenous Australia to Lagos. Tafawa Balewa Square served as one of the venues for the festival.
The stated goals of FESTAC ‘77 focused on the revival and resurgence of Black and African culture, and on creating a community of black and African artists. It figures as a key moment in bridging the gap between the continent and its diaspora, creating a heightened sense of shared knowledge, culture and experience through its intense modes of bringing and being together. Pedagogy was one of the festival’s key tenets. More than 700 artists, writers and scholars participated in a colloquium dedicated to reviving, fostering and teaching black and African arts. In the discussions, shared frustration surfaced around the ambivalence plaguing postcolonial discourse and shared fears were voiced about intellectual freedoms. The rippling waves of decolonization across Asia and Africa, as well as the civil rights movement in the United States in the fifties and sixties, created a call for transnational forums of solidarity in the ongoing struggle for social justice. FESTAC was a manifestation of this moment. It was the first in almost a decade, preceded by the 1966 International Black Arts Festival in Senegal and the 1969 Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers. Also important as a point of reference is the 6th Pan African Congress in 1974 in Dar es Salaam, the first of the series to take place on the African continent.
Worldmade communities asks how this cultural inheritance can be reimagined in Lagos fifty years later. What transnational conversations and forms of inspiration and solidarity can be imagined today — against the global currents of new forms of fascism and censorship. It extends the Lagos Biennial’s theme of REFUGE in relation to communities of support and exchange in this period of global cataclysmic events and conflicts, ecological precarity, shifting technological dimensions of existence and transnational threats to freedoms, civil responsibilities, education, and forms of expression including art. The program’s title is a twist on Benedict Anderson’s celebrated treatise on nationalism, Imagined Communities (1984), that describes the narratives and images that brings people together within modern nation-states. Nationalism and populism are on the rise in response to expanding global crises, yet transnational spaces are more interdependent and connected than ever before. How can new cultural and political imaginaries be made manifest through the practice and study of art and culture? Worldmade communities invites shared reflection on how it may be possible through art to radically expand notions of refuge, community, ecology, pedagogy, infrastructure, architecture and technology as tools of world building.
Curated by Lagos Biennial Co-Artistic Director Kathryn Weir and Egyptian curator and educator Sarah Rifky.
All programmes are free and open to the public with prior online registration. Please note that some programmes and speakers may be subject to change.