Article in Arts / Films & Movies / Documentary
“We have never been disconnected to the diaspora. The purpose of ‘The First World Negro Arts Festival’ was to bring the Black intellectuals of the diaspora to be together and to show to the World that we have something of value.” Bouna S. Ndiadye, Radio host of ‘Bonjour Africa’ 2016.
 
 
 

The African continent was caught up in slave trade since the 16th century with the transporting of millions to the Americas. Independence from colonialism began with the repatriating of the Republic of Liberia from the United States of America in 1847. It took until 1977 for the last of the colonial countries: Britain, France, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands to exit the worlds second largest continent. It took 139 years. Eleven years beyond the very first diaspora and 39 years since independence.


Fast forward to January 2016, fifty (50) years from 1966. Bouna S. Ndiaye a native Senegalese, humanitarian, activist, and patriot who driven by passion for nine years, researched, and recovered an extraordinary cultural event caught on film, to reintroduced back into the Senegalese milieu. After centuries of Africans being dispersed around the globe, in most circumstances as enslaved labor, Africa’s called to consolidate the diaspora of its cultural heritage back to the continent for the first time by hosting ‘The First World Festival of Black Arts (French: Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres) known also as FESMAN, a month-long culture and arts festival held in Dakar, Senegal, 1–24 April 1966. At that time, President Leopold Senghor, under the auspices of UNESCO, with the participation of 45 African, European, Caribbean, and North and South American countries featured black literature, music, theater, visual arts, film and dance.’ (wikipedia)

‘Participants included historian Cheikh Anta Diop; Haïlé Selassié, Josephine Baker, dancers Arthur Mitchell and Alvin Ailey; Mestre Pastrinha, a Capoeira troupe from Bahia; Duke Ellington; Marion Williams; singers Julie Akofa Akoussah and Bella Bellow; writers Aimé Césaire, André Malraux, Langston Hughes, Wole Soyinka, Amiri Baraka, and Nelson Mandela. It was the first state-sponsored festival to showcase the work of African and African diasporic artists, musicians and writers to a global audience’.

According to Bouna S. Ndiaye, “Any Senegalese researcher or artist who wants to use archival materials filmed in Senegal (on Senegalese events) but held in France would have to pay 1,500 Euros .” He understood the importance of available research to develop musical interests. Bouna’s radio program ‘Bonjour Africa is all about advancing the African diaspora, which he is uniquely suited to do. Ndiaye, had lived in North Carolina where he developed his radio show WNCU 90.7 PM, (North Carolina Central, Durham, NC) each Sunday 4:00-6:00 PM. Several years ago he returned to his native Senegal taking his show global now expanded to Puerto Rico.

In 1966, an African-American filmmaker William Greaves made a 40-minute documentary of ‘The First World Festival of Negro Arts” (1968). Bouna S. Ndiaye, in a meeting with him, discussed the film, thereby learning that Greaves according to Mr. Nydiaye, he “had managed to do his film with the help of a Senegalese chauffeur who accepted to be his soundman by following the Russians and taking advantage of the Russians light whenever he could”. This bit of information led Bouna to conclude that there was more film footage of that eventful world festival. He confirmed his conclusion, “Yes the Russians filmed it.”

He set out to find this critical piece of history that would enrich the lives of many fellow musicians, and artists from his country. Bouna stated, “All I was interested in is to give the Africans the ‘Right To See This Film’. Bringing the film back to Senegal was my only goal which is materialized by my showing it here.” Mr. Ndiaye managed to accomplish the first and only showing of the film on the African continent January 23rd, 2016! The magnitude of such a showing meant that the children of the original participants would get to see it as adults as well as their children’s children! Bouna S. Ndiaye was definitive in replying to my question regarding assistance and ownership of the documentary film, “Nobody helped me. I helped myself. I met all the Ministers of Culture, Foreign Affairs and paid everything out of pocket. The film was not only accessible from Russia” “It is the property of Russia. Anybody who wanted it should go to the owner, which is Russia.”

Bouna S. Ndiaye’s quest to ‘repatriate’ an important cultural event captured on film and brought back to his native country of Senegal, Africa may have possibly done more than that. His response to the question of how he arranged to obtain the film, “I did not need to represent as anything on the Russian side other than a Senegalese who is interested in repatriating this important part of our collective memory back home.” Bouna quoted, “On the Senegal side I was interviewed by: Le Soleil (The national newspaper), Le Temoin (another newspaper), Radio Senegal International, R FM, and “2S TV to have more attention”. During a telephone call, Bouna spoke with excitement about his vision of showing the film in other locations in Senegal.


Today Africa is an important economic growth continent. It is the land of opportunity for many African youth who have traveled abroad for education. As major cities build up across countries, it becomes more and more important that a comprehensive film of historical cultural value is made available to remind modern Africa of their enormous contributions to the world. Best of all it is now accessible as inspiration. Mr. Ndiaye’s efforts have shown his fellow countrymen that knowledge of one’s tradition has great meaning and a stimulus for creative expression grounded from the greatness of traditional Africa and its diaspora.

Bouna S. Ndiaye can be contacted via his Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/Barrometre1]. His has a special Facebook page to share his voyage in presenting this cultural phenomenon. ‘The World Festival of Negro Arts’ diaspora comes at an equally important time of development for today’s artists and musicians of Senegal. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1617599205166714/?ref=br_tf.

 

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