This dissertation examines the displays of the visual arts that appeared in the 1966 Premier Festival Mondial des Arts N�gres (First World Festival of Negro Arts) with respect to mid-century international politics. In addition to performances of dance and music, film screenings, poetry readings, and a scholarly colloquium, the state-sponsored Festival, held in Dakar, Senegal, included two major art exhibitions. The first, titled l’Art N�gre: Sources, �volution, Expansion (Negro Art: Sources, Evolution, Expansion), brought together more than 500 works of African art loaned from collections in nineteen countries. The other, called Tendances et Confrontations (Tendencies and Confrontations), was composed of contemporary art by African and African-descended artists working on the continent and throughout the diaspora. Drawing upon archival documents and photography from collections in Senegal, France, Switzerland, and the United States, my project examines the various diplomatic roles played by the visual arts at the event.
On one hand, the arts reinforced symbolic or spiritual ties posited to be shared by all humankind. For example, both Senegalese President L�opold S�dar Senghor and UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), a major financial and intellectual contributor to the Festival, considered intercultural exchange to be essential to achieving peace after the Second World War and decolonization. On the other hand, the arts acted as useful bartering chips; they were offered, withheld, rejected or praised in efforts to manipulate international politics amid the Cold War and alongside burgeoning nationalist movements accompanying African independence. By considering the relationship of the arts to international conceptualizations of black identity, continental African diplomacy, post-colonial Senegalese relations with France, and Cold War rivalries, my project unsettles an art-historical tendency to portray the artistic programming accompanying African independence as only reflective of nationalist, domestic politics.