Négritude was conceived as an emancipatory cultural movement, initiated in the Interwar period by francophone intellectuals of the African diaspora who sought to reclaim the value of African culture. Based upon an appropriation of the French word négre, which like its English counterpart is considered to be derogatory, the term itself is a neologism which gives a positive sense to a pejorative word. It was coined by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, who along with French Guyanese poet Léon Damas, and Léopold Sédar Senghor (a poet and first President of Senegal after decolonisation) was considered to be the founder of Négritude. The key proponent of Négritude, Senghor would further develop the poetry movement into a philosophy based on a ‘strategically essentialist’ (term by G. Spivak) notion of black identity. The Négritude conception of culture remained the impetus and guiding principle of Senghor’s thinking.

Sources of Inspiration for Léopold Senghor
Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) was a German ethnologist, archaeologist, and proponent of a culture-historical approach to ethnology. He is also considered to be one of the key figures that influenced the Négritude movement. In the introduction to An Anthology published on the occasion of Frobenius’ hundred years anniversary, Léopold Senghor claimed that the latter had not only “revealed Africa for the rest of the world”, but also “Africans to themselves”. Indeed, in his Kulturgeschichte Afrikas, the German ethnologist not only points out that the “barbarian negro was a European invention”, but also elaborates on such concepts as emotion, intuition, art, myth, and Eurafrica, which would become crucial for Senghor’s understanding of black subjectivity. Paideuma. Umrisse einer Kultur- und Seelenlehre (Paideuma. Outlines of a Soul and Culture Theory) is considered Frobenius’ most significant contribution to ethnography. Paideuma can be described as a unique faculty or manifestation of an attitude to life formed by a specific environment and upbringing. Therefore, man is understood as a product of culture, not the contrary.

The First World Festival of Negro Arts
1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres (The First World Festival of Negro Arts) was held in Dakar, Senegal, 1–24 April 1966, initiated by Léopold Senghor under the auspices of UNESCO. Visitors from around the world, as well as Dakar residents, were able to attend a vast programme of events, including exhibitions presenting tribal and modern art, conferences and street performances. According to Senghor, the festival was supposed to be an illustration of Négritude, a major showcase uniting the work of African and African diasporia artists. A colloquium that took place two day before the opening, which was considered the intellectual fulcrum of the event, gathered artists and intellectuals to reflect on the role of art in the emerging post-imperial world as well as the meaning of Négritude. The first side of this record consists of texts, music and slave songs, and the second side presents two different aspects of black music – short instrumental improvisations inspired by Senegalese traditional music and 'the Songs of New Nations' – Ghana, Nigeria, Congo – performed by a choir with native drums and percussion.


Authenticité (Authenticity) was a radical version of Afrocentrism introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Mobutu Sese Seko as an official state ideology of the Republic of Congo-Léopoldville, later renamed Zaire. The Authenticité policy implied numerous changes to state and to private life, and aimed to eliminate the influences of Western colonial culture in order to create a more centralised and singular national identity. This included the renaming of the country and its cities, as well as an eventual abolition of Christian names for more ‘authentic’ ones. In addition, the campaign banned Western-style clothing in favour of a tunic labelled the ‘abacost’ and its female equivalent. The policy had mostly been abandoned by the end of 1990s with the death of Mobutu, who had served as President of Congo/Zaire from 1965 to 1997.

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