The much anticipated Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac Africa) — a week-long arts and cultural festival for Africa and the diaspora — hardly lived up to the hype of promo videos, official song and fliers in the media.
Held in Zanzibar from May 23 to 28, some of the scheduled events did not happen and those that did, had poor attendance or no show.
On the official line up were a "Made in Africa" exhibition, lifestyle and film activation festival, business conferences, golf day to commemorate Africa Day, and an all-white party dubbed "Night Festival” with live music, at the Hotel Verde and Old Fort.
The opening day, despite small crowds of about 400 people against the 1,000 expected, was marked by pomp with cultural music and live band performances at Forodhani.
Although not scheduled to speak, Abdulrazak Gurnah, the Zanzibar-born 2021 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, briefly participated in discussions and later had a book signing session. Later, a networking cocktail party at the Zanzibar Serena Hotel in Stone Town only had about 15 attendees.
The seven-day night festival did not happen, despite the Old Fort grounds venue playing loud music as no one attended. Walking out of the grounds one evening, I asked a local man if he knew Festac was happening in town he said he had no idea.
Lindi Tshabangu from South Africa was of the opinion that “the exhibition could have been filled up, if local art artisans and local community had been invited to learn something.”
The event was hardly advertised locally, no posters at main gateways of the ferry in Stone Town or the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.
About 200 people from Africa and the diaspora attended the festival, among them artists, writers, musicians, activists, scholars and businesspeople.
The presidential talk had to be cancelled since all invited former presidents could not make it.