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Black Audio Film Collective

  • CountryUnited Kingdom
  • Established1982
  • Disbanded1998


Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artist groups to emerge from Britain, also considered as a pioneering film and video workshop collective initiative. Set up in response to the civil disturbances in Brixton in 1981, against British institutional racism, there was a concerted effort by Channel Four Television, the local metropolitan councils and the films and television unions collectively as part of a movement for greater cultural and political representation for and by black people in Britain; and to provide financial and structural support to black media and cultural makers , in order to promote a black cultural presence in the British media and arts.

Thus, BAFC was founded in 1982. Based in East London, BAFC was initially formed by seven Black British and diaspora multimedia undergraduate students in Sociology and Fine Art from Portsmouth Polytechnic: John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Reece Auguiste, Trevor Mathison, Edward George and Claire Johnson, who left in 1985 and was replaced by David Lawson. By many accounts, BAFC was also the expression of a generation of diasporic subjects that seized the term of political blackness as an identity marker as well as a claim to political visibility.

Characterised by an interest in memory, history, and aesthetics, the collective produced award-winning film, photography, slide-tape, video, installation, posters, and interventions; creating a series of defiantly experimental works that engaged with black popular and political culture in Britain. The group was also instrumental in bringing an awareness of avant-garde film from Africa, India and South America to the UK.

BAFC was one of the contributors to Iniva’s 2008 ‘Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers’ and part of the 1995 group exhibition ‘Mirage: Enigmas Of Race, Difference & Desire’, organised by Iniva in collaboration with the ICA and curated by David A Bailey. 

Handsworth Songs (1986), Twilight City (1987), Testament (1988), The Mysteries of July (1991) and Who needs a Heart (1991) won them a series of international awards.  The BAFC participating in British survey exhibitions such as ‘From Two Worlds’ in Whitechapel Gallery (1986), The British Art Show in Hayward Gallery (1990), as well as international exhibitions such as Documenta X (1997) and Documenta XI (2002).

‘Twilight City’ (1989) was exhibited at South London Gallery’s group exhibition ‘The Place is Here’ in (2017).

The Collective formally dissolved in 1998, after which John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, and David Lawson went on to found Smoking Dogs Films which has produced several of John Akomfrah’s single-authored films.

The first major retrospective of the BAFC, ‘The Ghosts of Songs’, toured in 2007.

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