10 Jan 2023 11:00

The Photographer Who Documented a Long-Forgotten Pan-African Festival

Forty-six years ago, a young photographer named Marilyn Nance got the opportunity of a lifetime. A student at the Pratt Institute, an art school in Brooklyn, Nance had never left the country. But she became one of the official photographers documenting a festival in Lagos, Nigeria, called FESTAC ’77. The monthlong festival featured artists from across Africa and the diaspora, and has been described as the most important Black cultural event of the twentieth century. But, on returning from the festival, Nance didn’t find any takers to publish her photos, and fifty years later, few people know it took place. “I thought I would be talking about FESTAC in 1978, not in 2022,” Nance told the staff writer Julian Lucas. “If some tragic thing had happened, everybody would remember. . . . But I guess maybe there was no investment in celebrating Black joy.” A collection of Nance’s photographs from the event was published late in 2022, in the book “Last Day in Lagos.” 


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