Black Cultural Festival, West Berlin (1986)

The Black Cultural Festival was organised by Fountainhead® Tanz Théâtre in March 1986 in West Berlin. It consisted of dance and theatre performances, live music, symposiums, exhibitions, and films. The venues were the Theatermanufaktur am Halleschen Ufer from March 3-16, music – dance – theatre; Hochschule der Künste Berlin on March 11, symposium; Kino Arsenal from March 17-23, film. According to Donald Muldrow Griffith it was the precursor to the “Black International Cinema Berlin” film festival that has run since 1991.

Philipp Khabo Koepsell


Donald Muldrow Griffith on the Black Cultural Festival 1986 and The Black International Cinema Berlin (October 2020):

“The Black International Cinema Berlin began as a result of the first historical Black Cultural Festival in Europe, produced and directed by Fountainhead® Tanz Théâtre from March 3-23, 1986 in West Berlin, Germany. The contributors were mostly Black artists, filmmakers and intellectuals from Africa and the African Diaspora presenting a spectrum of Black art, Black cinema, Black thinking and life, and through seminars discussing their various political, social and cultural experiences. The festival offered a musical homage based upon the life experience of one of the great tap dancers, Carnell Lyons. Afterwards, the inspiring and exhausting journey led us to think and discuss what aspect of this experience could be continued. So, with the support of the Arsenal Cinema, Erika Gregor and other persons, we decided to continue an aspect of the cultural festival, which developed into Black International Cinema Berlin. The name was adopted from the parent undertaking and so, Black International Cinema Berlin, which was presented during the 3rd week of the Black Cultural Festival was initiated and continued until today, 2020. We thankfully managed to continue our inspiration.”
Donald Muldrow Griffith

Programme brochure

“Culture is simultaneously the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of history, by the positive or negative influence which it exerts on the evolution of relationships between man and his environment, among men or groups of men within a society, as well an among different societies.”
Amilcar Cabral

“National Liberation and Culture”
From March 3rd to the 23rd of 1986 the first Berlin BLACK CULTURAL FESTIVAL will take place, organized and directed by FOUNTAINHEAD DANCE THEATRE. As a group of African and Afro-American artists and intellectuals we have a firm belief that culture is the most essential and dynamic aspect of a peoples identity, human achievement, and ability to contribute to world civilization. We hope, that this festival will serve to demonstrate the fundamental continuities that unite African peoples and will contribute 19 a greater understanding of the cultural achievements of Black people with the german public.

Culture is the sum total of a peoples life style, their values and cumulative collective critical choices in everyday life. This is realized on its highest level as art, because artists are the cultural workers who make the highest synthesis of the entire people. The life style of a people is always a celebration of life rooted in their necessity to survive and prosper against all obstacles. This means that culture is inherently an instrument of liberation by which a nation achieves emancipation, in nature and in society. Black culture is a great achievement as it has enabled African peoples to survive slavery, colonialism and all forms of cultural aggression including forced assimilation.

There is a great historical legacy for our current efforts. Since World War II, beginning with the Fifth Pan-African Conference (Manchester, England 1945) led by W.E.B. DuBois (USA), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and George Padmore (Trinidad), Black intellectuals from Africa and the USA have organized confererces and festivals to focus on the contributions of Black culture and artisti< achievement. This was continued through the Black Conference of Artists and Writers in Paris, 1956 led by Alioune Diop (Senegal), Frantz Fanon (Martinique) and Richard Wright (USA) and most recently in the World Festivals of Black Culture, first in Dakar, Senegal 1966 and then Lagos, Nigeria (FESTAC) in 1977.

We believe that it is important to have such a conference/festival tradition begin in Berlin as well as it should in every major city of the world. (In this light we salute the 5th World Book Fair/Festival of Black and Third World Peoples being held in London, England at the same time as our festival in Berlin.)

Berlin was the host city of the conference in 1884/85 that consolidated the pattern of colonial rule over Africa and in Germany racism reached its greatest heights as public policy – the denial of not only cultural achievements but also basic humanity of Black people. On the other hand Berlin also has examples of resistance to this colonial/imperial legacy. Berlin is now a world city of great cultural diversity including forms of Black Culture.

We present this festival as Black people for Black people. It demonstrates the necessary element of self-determination in Black people themselves establishing Black culture as identity, achievement and as a contribution to German culture and world civilization. We present this festival for all of Berlin including the guests in this city.

We welcome everyone!

Festival Programme

Source: “Black Cultural Festival, Programme Brochure” (1986) Each One Teach One (EOTO) Archive, Berlin. All images are reproduced by permission of Dr Donald Muldrow Griffith.

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Black Cultural Festival, West Berlin (1986) by Philipp Khabo Koepsell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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