The Frontline States festival

In 1989, after publishing Sacred Hope by Agostino Neto, the Journeyman Press conceived a project to celebrate the culture of the countries surrounding South Africa – Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – known as the ‘Frontline States’. The publisher had helped the African National Congress in London by sourcing supplies for its freedom fighters training in Zambia and Tanzania and was previously a ‘London Recruit‘.

A festival of contemporary art, popular music, poetry, theatre, photography and film would provide a way for people in Britain to better understand the human cost of the Frontline States’ resistance to the military and economic aggression of apartheid South Africa.

The year 1990 was especially important for Southern Africa. It was the 10th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and 15 years since Angola and Mozambique had gained their independence from Portugal. Namibia – Africa’s last colony – became independent in March. It was also to be the year that Nelson Mandela and other black leaders were released from prison and the African National Congress was unbanned.

Attack by armed bandits, Niassa Province, Mozambique (photograph by Lucas Ganhao, 1986)
George Nene (1958-2005), detail from 'Celebration', acrylic on card