The World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture started as a mere idea in Paris in 1956, where the Paris-based Pan-African Cultural Society summoned a meeting of writers and artists to discuss the “resurgence” of the African culture. Continuing this effort in order to “propagate” the values and originality of Black culture, the second congress held in Rome in 1959, proposed the organization of a Black Cultural Festival, hosted for the first time by President Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001) in Dakar, Senegal, in April 1966.
This first edition was attended by prominent artists and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Arthur Mitchell, Alvin Ailey (American Negro Dance Company), Mestre Pastinha (the great Capoeirista of Bahia), Marion Williams, and the Queen of Samba, Clementina de Jesus.
The second session of the festival was organized by the military government of Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo, in Nigeria. Despite it was cancelled twice, in 1970, due to the ongoing civil war (1967-70) and in 1974, due to its incomplete facilities, the festival was eventually realized from January 15 to February 12, in 1977.
Dubbed as FESTAC 1977 (Festival of African Arts and Culture) the event merged black artists from all over the globe: Bembeya Jazz (Guinea), Louis Maholo and Dudu Pukwana (South Africa), Mighty Sparrow (Trinidad), OK Jazz (Congo) accompanied by Ray Lema, Tabu Ley Rochereau and the Orchestre Afrisa International (Congo), Gilberto Gil (Brazil), the Cuban National Dance, aboriginal performers from Australia and New Guinea, and celebrated artists like Stevie wonder, Sun Ra, and Donald Byrd, to name only a few.
From this paramount event a few registrations survive up to date:
A volume of Happy Festac recordings by the Nigerian label Hasbunalau records
and the Golden Sounds of Cameroon
The 3rd edition of the Festival Mondial Des Artes Negres took place in Dakar, from 10-31 December 2010.