After a pause of more than four decades, Panaf is back

July 2009 -

Two large festivals being organized in West and North Africa in the second half of 2009 are the talk of the town: Le Deuxième Festival Culturel Panafricain (Panaf) is being held in Algiers from 5 to 20 July, and will be followed by le Deuxième Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres in Dakar in December. The first edition of both of these festivals was held in the 1960s. During the first edition in 1969, a number of African countries were not yet independent. Their independence movements represented these countries at the festival.


The countries include Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and Guinea Bissau. While Africans were searching for the right type of leadership for the entire continent, Algeria presented the most prestigious African cultural event: the Panaf. Although almost all African countries are independent now, the continent is still searching for proper continental leadership. After the extensive bloodshed in Algeria over the past twenty years, the country is once again looking to take the lead.

During the conference of culture ministers in 2005, Algeria proposed organizing the Panaf again. After much lobbying, all heads of state approved the project in Addis Ababa in January 2009. That approval made the Panaf a formal matter within the African Union, which delegated responsibility for organizing the festival to Algeria. Of the 52 member countries of the African Union, 44 have confirmed their participation.

Algeria was able to appropriate no less than € 60 million for the project. Protests have been heard, of course, especially from religious groups, along with the opinion that the sum would be better invested in schools and hospitals. There is also a widely-supported view, however, that Africa should showcase its talent and work towards strengthening the reputation of its creative sector and economizing the arts.

Every art discipline will be represented at the second edition of the Panaf. An important place has been reserved for a tribute to African Nobel Prize Winners, including the authors Aguib Mahfouz from Egypt, Wole Soyinka from Nigeria, and Nadine Gorimer and Johan Maxwell Coetzee from South Africa. Virtually every important African musician will be represented, and an extensive cinema programme has been organized.