In 1962, African and international delegates met in Africa for the First International Congress of African Culture. This little-known event showcased the superb aesthetics and power of both classic and contemporary African arts, refuted bias and misrepresentations, and demonstrated the influence and contributions of African culture to world culture. Although there had been two Congrès des écrivains et artistes noirs in Paris in 1956 and Rome in 1959, this was the first congress on the broader subject of African culture to be held on the continent. Encompassing visual art, music, dance, and architecture, it involved practitioners such as Simon Okeke, Selby Mvusi, Pearl Primus, and Pancho Guedes; scholars such as Saburi O. Biobaku, Hugh Tracey, and Janheinz Jahn; and leading figures from the international art world such as Alfred H. Barr, William Buller Fagg, and Udo Kulterman, as well as historians, critics, museologists, and anthropologists. One of the exhibitions specifically juxtaposed African art pieces with works by Picasso, Brancusi, Paolozzi, and others. The congress was held at what was then the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe), initiated by the institution’s director, Frank McEwen. This essay provides background information, analysis of the context, summaries of some of the important papers presented, and looks at the local and international impact.

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