portrait d'Alioune Diop , fondateur de la revue Présence Africaine
portrait d'Alioune Diop, fondateur de la revue Présence Africaine



fondation Total

Présence Africaine

visuel de l'affiche Présence africaine

a forum, a movement, a network

East Mezzanine

Collections ticket 8.50€ full price and 6€ reduced price

From Tuesday, 10th November 2009 - Sunday 31st January 2010

Chief curator: Sarah Frioux-Salgas

Présence africaine is the literary and cultural journal established by the Senegalese intellectual Alioune Diop in 1947, and also became a publishing house from 1949. It was a dissemination tool that allowed black intellectuals and writers to reclaim their cultural and historic identities which had been negated or “exoticized” as a result of colonisation.

This exhibition presents a number of works and documents from archives, photographs and some objects. Sound and audiovisual recordings also play an important role: documents from the period and interviews specially created for this exhibition animate the visit.

The exhibition's objective is to consider the development and influence of a movement that created a forum for the ideas and demands of black people at a time when the majority of the West had a deformed and even deprecating view of these populations.

Related events

a number of events are organized in the Jacques Kerchche reading room, relating to the Présence Africaine exhibition

consult thereading room events related to the Présence Africaine exhibition

You can also download a detailed chronology of events and publications related to Présence Africaine and consult a list of related websites.

masque facial zoomorphe Dogon © musée du quai Branly
Dogon zoomorphic facial mask © musée du quai Branly

Exhibition path

The exhibition will be presented in four sections, preceded by an introductory sequence.

Opening of the exhibition

The exhibition opens with a Dogon object that became the journal's symbol. The introduction will succinctly present the journal and the publishing house Présence Africaine, and recall the pertinence of such an exhibition today. Interviews of the movement's major personalities will be aired.

The Crisis. La couverture du numéro de mai 1929 est illustrée par Aaron Douglas, artiste majeur du mouvement « New Negro » © musée du quai Branly
The Crisis. The cover of the May 1929 issue is illustrated by Aaron Douglas, major artist of the “New Negro” movement © musée du quai Branly

Section 1 The Black Atlantic from pan-Africanism to negritude

The journal Présence Africaine inherited both a “black press” movement that existed in France in the 1920s and an international and cultural political movement.

The section is divided into four large subsections, each of which present the cultural, political and intellectual life linked to the “black vogue” and the debates' international dimension. The four subsections are:

  • the influences of Black Americans and Haitian intellectuals
  • Paulette Nardal and her literary salon
  • Equal rights, anti-colonialist and anti-segregation activists
  • Negritude

This section mainly presents archival documents, notably unpublished examples of the black press between the two wars, as well as Paulette Nardal's Journal of the Black World.

First issue of Présence Africaine, November – December 1947 © DR

Section 2 the journal and the publishing house Présence Africaine: one project, several commitments

This section presents the project and commitments of Présence Africaine and how its founder, Alioune Diop, succeeded in uniting all the black diasporas.

Présence Africaine published all of Césaire's great texts. Its English translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's "Black Orpheus" (1948), contributed to the dissemination of this text on negritude. It also published Sheik Anta Diop's famous work: "Negro Nations and Cultures" (1954).

The section is divided into two subsections:

  • The creation of the journal: “Niam n’goura or raison d’être of Présence Africaine”
  • Publishing commitments: from the inventory of black cultures to anticolonialism

This section will notably present exceptional hand-written documents by Sartre and Breton as well as original photos by Alfred Metraux. Great movements and black cultural and historic figures will be evoked, such as the Black Panthers and Malcolm X.

photographie des participants du 1er congrès des écrivains et artistes noirs à la Sorbonne en septembre 1956 © DR
Photograph of the participants of the 1st congress of black writers and artists at the Sorbonne in September 1956 © DR

Section 3 1956-1959: black intellectual debates. The congress of black artists and writers (Paris, Sorbonne, 1956 – Rome, 1959)

Two congresses of black artists were organized by Présence Africaine: the two events in 1956 and 1959 were essentially initiated and organized by Alioune Diop, who attempted to practically apply the principles established in the publishing commitments.

The objective of these congresses, which took place during the colonization years, the Cold War, the apartheid, and racial segregation in the United States, was to create an inventory and a record of African culture and to reflect on the situation of black people in the world. This section is thus the occasion to evoke the debates that animated the black literary and intellectual world during the 1950s.

Original examples of posters created by Picasso for the two congresses, photographs, and unpublished audio recordings illustrate this section.

boîte reliquaire anthropomorphe © musée du quai Branly photo Hughes Dubois
Anthropomorphic reliquary box © musée du quai Branly photo by Hughes Dubois

Section 4 Dakar 1966: the arts of Africa in Africa

Through the two congresses that it organised, Présence Africaine offered a forum to intellectuals and writers of the black diaspora. By initiating and actively participating in the organization of the First World Festival of Negro Arts (Dakar, 1966), Présence Africaine continued its work to highlight the wealth and the diversity of artistic practices of both Africans and the diaspora.

This festival was the first large cultural event organized in Africa by a young independent African state. This event therefore had strong political implications for Léopold Lédar Senghor, president of the young republic of Senegal.

The section is divided into three major subsections:

  • The organization in Dakar of the First World Festival of Negro Arts (April, 1966)
  • The multiple events during the festival
  • The exhibition on  “negro art”: from Dakar (April, 1966) to Paris (Grand Palais, June, 1966)

In addition to the posters and programs of the period, a portion of the objects exhibited in Dakar during the 1966 exhibition are also presented. In addition, a video installation gives an idea of the wealth and dynamism of the artistic scene during the festival.

centre des archives nationales d'outre-mer

Certain rare documents, newspapers, and journals presented in the exhibition were lent by the Center of the Overseas National Archives in Aix-en-Provence.