September 26, 2022



I urge everyone reading this to patiently allow the juices of their imagination, creativity and audacity to flow.
Imagine an event somewhere in Africa, or the Caribbeans, that holds every few years.

All the countries in Africa, as well as countries with a large population of Diaspora Africans (people of African-descent), a 76-country membership of the Black Race, assemble their most gifted musicians, painters, poets, actors, dancers, drummers, sculptors, literary giants and others, for a festival that showcases their exceptional gifts of rich African traditions, their stories told in a spectacular display of artistic expressions that leave the world in breathless awe and wonder.
During the same festival, intellectuals with diverse backgrounds in scholarship are drawn from the different participating countries to interrogate their race’s past and present, and peer into the crystal ball of possibilities into the future; plan to create and present a united front to the rest of the world in order to be heard and to be taken seriously; set a common agenda that will protect and promote their collective interests as a race; design a simple road-map of implementation for the future – a collaboration as one people participating on an equal footing and on a level playing field with the rest of the world in a battle of the races without an end in sight that the Black race has been fighting and losing for 5 Centuries.
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It is not easy to find the right way through the labyrinth of the present world system that is not designed so that the Black race can compete fairly or succeed.
The festival of arts and culture was a great concept, to promote the emancipation and elevation of the Black race through the soft diplomacy that arts and culture are.
The above is not the script of a horror movie. It is reality. It happened in 1977.
At the end of the festival, after the euphoria of that unprecedented event had died down, the event itself died. Nothing on FESTAC has happened again in 45 years – nothing! What followed was the silence of the graveyard. FESTAC was buried alive! The festival and its anticipated deliverables are deep in the bowels of history. Nothing is ever heard or discussed about it. The world simply just goes on, and time passes, tick-tock, tick-tock, an endless chime of the Black race wallowing in the pit of depression, discrimination, injustice, oppression, and disrespect on earth.
In 1977, the Second Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC ’77 took place in Nigeria. It was the largest gathering of Africans and people of African-descent in human history.
17000 of the best artists from this constellation of Black persons came and unleashed the full range of original African Arts and Culture to drive their anticipated reconnection process back to the ‘Homeland’, through genuine friendships and relationships, reintegration and economic collaboration. All of these, to earn respect and equality with the rest of humanity, without which the Black race would remain at the lowest rung of human society.
For some reasons, the plane of a dream left the tarmac, soared into the skies, but has not landed anywhere in 45 years. It is hovering in the dark clouds of forgotten history. In 45 years, the most ambitious global project in the history of the Black race has not been revisited.
Why?
What happened to the dream? What happened to the product of the colloquiums?
Why did FESTAC become a subject of religious distortions instead of a weapon of emancipation? Very many questions are hanging like low hanging fruits, waiting to be plucked for redemption.
What is obvious, however, is that as beautiful as the FESTAC project was on paper it was not potent enough to survive the forces massed against its for sustenance beyond 1977. It was too ‘dangerous’ to be left to thrive and flourish by the other contending Civilisations. So, FESTAC was ‘poisoned’.
The spirit of FESTAC is being roused by new and emerging forces. The objectives for the festival remain till this day. What the project needs is a more potent and powerful tool to drive it.
To those who can discern, such a weapon exists.
‘Sport has the power to change the world’. Those words ring faintly but true in the hearts of those deeply thinking about the objectives of FESTAC.
Sport, constructively deployed, can add to the potency of Arts and Culture to achieve what they (Arts and Culture) could not in 1977.
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So, a new seed is being sown and a new dream has started to sprout from the creative chambers of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, the international relations arm of the Federal Government of Nigeria, in Lagos Nigeria.
FESTAC ’77 is to be revisited for a forensic audit.
The Sports and Diplomacy Unit of the NIIA is already dreaming of a new possibility – the best artists and athletes from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, USA, Cuba, and so on, from 78 countries, congregating every few years, and holding an event that fuses of Arts, Culture and Sports in a kaleidoscope of artistic colour and splendour as weapons to be deployed by the Black race in the ‘War of Civilisations’.
That journey into a new frontier starts on Thursday, June 23, 2022 in the second in ‘The Conversations’ series organised to set the stage for one of the most ambitious and audacious missions in the history of the Black race on earth.
A combination Friendship Games and Art and Cultural festival. Lessons learnt from the ‘failure’ of FESTAC ’77 guiding new thinking on funding, scope, organisation, and so on and so forth. The emerging images are awesome.
So, on June 23, 2022, an assembly of some Principal participants in FESTAC ’77 will kick-start the new process. They will first land the hovering ‘aircraft’ of FESTAC ’77 with a forensic audit, unearthing the buried remains of the event, stimulating nostalgia about the world of Africans and all their descendants, watering and cultivating the possibility of a new concept and project.
We shall also bring together experts in futuristic Sports and Diplomacy, to add their knowledge about sport and diplomacy, and their power to unite and empower in order to create a new world order and a deserving place for all Black persons on earth.
The fusion of these presentations has the prospects of a new vision, a new plan, and a new Movement that will champion the cause of all Black persons on earth in the ‘War of Civilisations’.
I cannot wait to be a part of conceiving and birthing ‘The FESTAC of Sports’. It starts on June 23rd. Watch out!
 
Segun Odegbami
 
 
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