In an effort to keep alive the accomplishments of Présence Africaine—its history and its worldwide contribution to enhancing African literature—an important expo is now taking place in the Paris region. The opening activities have already started, and in fact since November 10th, a fury of cultural and literary activities began to coincide with the birth of Présence Africaine’s founder, Senegalese Alioune Diop.
Diop (Left in the picture) has long passed away, but Christiane Diop, his widow, is the executive director of this historic publishing house located in the Paris’ Latin Quarter, not far from Sorbonne University. Founded in 1947, PA quickly became the official voice of the Négritude Movement spurheaded by renowned authors like Léopold Sedar Senghor, Léon Damas, Aimé Césaire etc… Many of these authors and political activists went on to become leaders of their own countries.
Présence Africaine was also the voice of Pan Africanism, and legendary African-American authors and scholars like W. E. B. Du Bois of Haitian origin and Richard Wright were highly elevated. In fact, Du Bois was unanimously nominated to preside the 1956 Paris congress. When he was prevented from traveling overseas because of his political views, Dr. Jean Price Mars of Haiti was chosen. The 1956 congress crowned under the banner of Congrès des Ecrivains et Artistes Noirs was the first of such gathering, uniting artists and writers from Africa and as well as from the African Diapora. It was held at the Sorbonne University. Historic by its nature for having in its fold prestigious writers like Jacques Stéphen Alexis, Frantz Fanon, Richard Wright, etc…, the French authorities did their best to limit its impact of the then French Sub Saharan African colonies as well as the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. It was in this congress that Alexis showcased his Prolegomena to a Haitian Marvelous Realism, an important document that all Haitian intellectuals must read.
The 1956 gathering was the subject of an important documentary titled Lumière Noire directed by American film maker Bob Swaim. It was released in 2006 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Paris crongress. Lumière Noire will be showing on December 3rd au Musée du Quai Branly dans le Salon de Lecture. Readers who live en région Parisienne may not miss this historic opportunity. The overall activities will end on January 31st 2010. For more info, visit the PA official site : www.presenceafricaine.com