#PAC75: The 75th Anniversary Celebrations of the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester, Viewing the Past and Looking to the Future was a successful 4-day festival curated by Professor of Architecture, Ola Uduku of the Manchester School of Architecture. Led by Manchester Metropolitan University, this was in collaboration with 11 partners. They include the University of Manchester, the University of Salford, and the University of Bolton, and in association with a host of UK and international academic, creative and cultural individuals and institutions, including prominent local creatives and the Manchester public.

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CONTEXTS: The Pan African Congress in 1945 was a precursor to the development of a number of African independence movements which went on to successfully secure self-rule for countries across Africa. It also signified the movement of the intellectual discourse on African self-realisation and solidarity with other causes; moving from the Americas and the West Indies, to the UK and then on to Africa.

The plaque commemorating this event is situated in the new Manchester Metropolitan University Arts and Humanities Building, facing onto All Saints Square, in what had previously been Chorlton Town Hall where the original six-day event took place. The Congress had 200 attendees from across the world; including delegations from Africa, America, the Caribbean and Asia, as well as black and white delegates from Manchester and across the UK.

Join us online to enjoy a range activities featuring high-profile international speakers, such as the Princeton-based writer and philosopher, Kwame Anthony Appiah, the writer and historian Afua Hirsch, and the poets Lemn Sissay, (Chancellor of The University of Manchester) and Carol Ann Duffy DBE (former Poet Laureate 2009-2019). They will be joined also by student speakers, who represent our next generation of leaders. There will also be public online sessions including literature readings, art projections, and audio theatrical performances by the Manchester School of Theatre and Contact Theatre. PAC@75 is curated in collaboration with Dr Kai Syng Tan.

PAC@75 will bring together academics, students and the public to celebrate the impact that the diversity of Manchester has had on global history, and how this history relates to today’s contemporary challenges in the face of modern racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

ARTWORKS: The banner above has been created for PAC@75. In a few colours and striking motif, the design simply and powerfully encapsulates the spirit of the PAC@75. The central motif is the shape of the African continent, relates the 5th Pan African Congress that happened in 1945 to 2020 Black Lives, in the colours of associated with Pan-Africanism  The process that this has been created is itself a testament to the collaborative spirit of PAC@75, produced as it was in a matter of days as a collaboration between artist and curator Dr Kai Syng Tan known for her EDI-centred initiatives in UK and internationally, advised by anti-racism historian based at MMU and People’s History Museum Dr Shirin Hirsch, designed by two ManMet students who were strangers, an alumni  Zineb Berrais (MMU Animation 2018) and Victoria Abigail Rebekah Holland (MMU Fine Art first year 2020). Zineb is an Algerian born filmmaker (and photographer and artist more) currently doing her MA at Salford. Victoria will be available to work closely with your team to make the necessary tweaks.

We have also curated a collection of original artworks by students and alumni of Manchester School of Art. Aislinn’s work (textiles 2018) for instance were all made in 2020 during lockdown and are not only visually stunning but urgent. Justice for Belly for instance features Belly Mujinga was an essential worker who passed from Coronavirus; Priestess I features a highly adorned priestess who gathers her power and spirituality from her ancestors, and is inspired by Afro-futurism – linking past and future. We Stan’, in support of the BLM marches and protests, celebrating the  unity as a result of inequality and injustice. We were alone, together marching for the same cause. Saima, current MA student in Fine Art, painted Together We Stand United in response to our call for artworks. In this watercolour and graphite pencil on paper piece (20X30cm) Pakistan-born artist Saima Rasheed has painted a group of black people standing proudly and firmly. They represent empowerment and equality, proud on their race, gender and sexuality. In the background there is a suggestion of long painful history embedded in the politics of space. The word ‘Black’ has been written in many possible languages hovering freely in the space across the layers of time and space. The artists are all proud and delighted to collaborate with PAC@75.

Above: PAC@75 banner co-designed by Zineb Berrais and Victoria Abigail Rebekah Holland.

Below: Overview 19 October 2020. Photographs are of the installation led by Michael Gorman at the new Arts and Humanities building.