The creation of the Dak’Art Biennale in 1989 marked a pivotal moment in the African and international art scenes. President Abdou Diouf’s government had emerged from the worst part of Senegal’s economic crisis in the 1980s and was ready to return to international cultural diplomacy, a central policy thrust of Senegalese government since independence. Coincidentally, the mainstream art world had begun to reexamine the meaning of internationalism in the wake of neoliberal globalization, with groundbreaking exhibitions such as Magicians of the Earth at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1989 and the proliferation of art biennales in the incoming decade. Dak’Art was an important player in this new, global configuration. Yet, the new “art world order” does not fully explain what precipitated Dak’Art. A full picture must include a rigorous engagement with twentieth-century history of global black cultural politics as Dak’Art’s wellspring. In mapping this history, this article explores the significance of the comprehension of Dak’Art’s geopolitical vision, understood as Pan-African internationalism.

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