In 1977, Black artists (painters, poets, dancers, and musicians) converged on Lagos, Nigeria on January 15th, the birthdate of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., for a homecoming known as Festac ‘77. For those in attendance, in particular Black Americans, the occasion marked a long-awaited reunion with a culture, language, and tradition taken from them through enslavement. Despite the circumstances thrust upon them, Black people from across the Americas persevered and remained connected to their African heritage rooted in a collective sense of identity. This dynamic is visible throughout the film from the opening chants of “We are an African people…Africa is one…Africa is blackness, blackness is supreme.”
The film is punctuated with performances by Milford Graves, Miriam Makeba, Nadi Qamar, and various dance ensembles, theater companies, and gospel choirs. What is particularly striking is the relationship between artistic and religious modes of expression that mesh African, Latin, and American cultures into one. The blending of disparate forms–Oshun and Jehovah, gospel hymns and spiritual chants, jazz/R&B and African drumming–is testament to Black people’s resilience and their ability to hold on to the remnants of their cultural identity under the most severe conditions.
Major support for Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Joseph Robert Foundation.
Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal, organized and presented by Ars Nova Workshop and Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (ICA).
Introduction Part 2: Festac ’77
- Family Reunion – Americans at Festac (1978)
Directed by Dick Young and Gerald Krell
Narration by Schyleen Qualls
Runtime: 35:57 min