For Africans, Dakar’s Black Arts Festival Was the Place to Be

It didn't get much attention in the U.S., but the massive black arts festival in Dakar last December drew many heads of states, dozens of headliners and thousands of artists.

Dancers perform on December 10, 2010 at

While much of the world’s media was focused on the growing political crisis in the Ivory Coast in December, thousands converged on Dakar, Senegal, for one of those rarest of events: the World Festival of Black Arts. The event featured some of Africa’s biggest names: heads of state, from Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Libya’s Muhammar Qaddafi; performers like Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo (and America’s own Wyclef Jean); and thousands of attendees from Africa and the Diaspora.

The event commemorated the first such festival in the Senegalese city in 1966, in the heyday of African independence. Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on the British-Ghanaian artist who was the massive show’s artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah. The event — and the Guardian’s reporting — are a reminder that even where there is bad news in Africa, there is also good news; we just never hear about it.