A focused study on a singular African American photographer, through an archival encounter with her documentation of the landmark FESTAC’77 festival
From January 15 to February 12, 1977, more than 15,000 artists, intellectuals and performers from 55 nations worldwide gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, for the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, also known as FESTAC’77. Taking place in the heyday of Nigeria’s oil wealth and following the African continent’s potent decade of decolonization, FESTAC’77 was the peak of Pan-Africanist expression. Among the musicians, writers, artists and cultural leaders in attendance were Ellsworth Ausby, Milford Graves, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Samella Lewis, Audre Lorde, Winnie Owens, Miriam Makeba, Valerie Maynard, Queen Mother Moore and Sun Ra.
While serving as the photographer for the US contingent of the North American delegation, Brooklyn-based photographer Marilyn Nance made more than 1,500 images throughout the course of the festival—one of the most comprehensive photographic accounts of FESTAC’77. Drawing from Nance’s extensive archive, most of which has never before been published, Last Day in Lagos chronicles the exuberant intensity and sociopolitical significance of this extraordinary event.
Over the course of five decades, Marilyn Nance (born 1953) has produced images of unique moments in the cultural history of the US and the African Diaspora. Nance is a two-time finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Award in Humanistic Photography. Her work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Library of Congress, and has been published in The World History of Photography, History of Women in Photography and The Black Photographers Annual. She lives in New York.