Text by Camille Mary Weiner.
Published for the artist's solo presentation at Frieze New York, Betye Saar: FESTAC '77 includes a selection of the artist's work organized around her participation in the festival FESTAC '77. The exhibition highlights how, inspired by her FESTAC journey, Saar's assemblages and collages from the period investigate concepts of the ritual, community, inherited traditions, and how objects retain the histories of their owners. Betye Saar: FESTAC '77 is conceived and designed by the 91 year-old artist.
FESTAC '77, or the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, was a major international arts festival held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. In terms of scale and ambition, FESTAC '77 had no precedent. The month-long event showcased internationally a wide range of African fine art, literature, drama, dance, and music. 16,000 participants, representing 56 African and African Diaspora nations and countries, performed; the American delegation included artists Betye Saar, Samella Lewis, Faith Ringgold, Barkley Hendricks, Nathaniel Bustian, Ta-coumba T. Aiken and Noah Purifoy. Despite its historical importance, FESTAC '77 remains relatively unknown.
Saar's participation was part of a new, vigorous interest in the political potentialities that crystallized during the U.S. Black Arts Movement. The festival provided a forum for diverse contributions divesting from European-derived aesthetics and thematics, representing a broadening of focus within Afrodiasporic studies. Betye Saar captured the optimism of FESTAC '77 in her sketches onsite. Her subsequent assemblages and collages absorbed the multiple social and political influences, specifically African-American women's political mobilization, collective action, and historical traditions of resistance.
This publication accompanies the exhibition Betye Saar: FESTAC ’77 at Frieze New York, Roberts Projects Stand SP17 (May 3 - 6, 2018).
Published by Roberts Projects, Culver City, California, 2018
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9 inches / 30 pages / 24 color images