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John Akomfrah

  • Country Ghana
  • Born1957


John Akomfrah is a filmmaker whose work investigates the issues of postcolonialism, memory, migration and the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA. In 1982, he co-founded the influential Black Audio Film Collective with peers David Lawson and Lina Gopaul. He debuted as a film director with the critically acclaimed film Handsworth Songs, which explored the contours of race and civil disorder in the context of 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. The work combined still photographs with documentary material from archives and newsreel.

In 2008, a screening of Akomfrah’s The Genome Chronicles was included in Iniva’s exhibition ‘Donald Rodney in Retrospect.’ The film produced by Smoking Dogs Films in association with Iniva was created in memoriam to Akomfrah’s close friend Rodney, a prominent member of BLK art group, who died from sickle cell anaemia in 1998. The film referenced previously unseen footage, which documented Rodney’s hospital visits and relationships with his friends and partner Diane Symons. This material was interlaced with Akomfrah’s personal film archive.

Born in Accra, Ghana, to parents who were involved with anti-colonial activism, Akomfrah moved to London at the age of four. He graduated with a BSc in Sociology from the Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1988 and had since participated in numerous international film festivals and biennales, including Cannes, Documenta XI and Sundance Film Festival. In 2015, his three-screen film installation Vertigo Sea was premiered at the 56th Venice Biennale. Akomfrah has received multiple awards for his films, in 2017 winning Artes Mundi 7 Prize. He was appointed CBE in 2017 for services to art and filmmaking.

Exhibitions and projects by Akomfrah include the premiere of a feature-length film at ‘Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp’ taking place in Louisiana, from 18 November 2017 to 25 February 2018.

‘Auto Da Fé’ (2016), is a two-channel video that investigates historic migrations driven by religious persecution. ‘Auto Da Fé’ is featured in ‘Rose Video 11 at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA. 8 September 2017 – 21 January 2018.

An immersive six-channel video installation for The Curve, Barbican, London, UK titled: ‘John Akomfrah: Purple’ is running from 6 October 2017 – 7 January 2018.

Akomfrah lives and works in London, where he is a trustee at Tate.

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