'John Akomfrah on exploring colonialism, migration and globalism through ‘bricolage’' - Financial Times
10 November 2023
The artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah has vivid memories of the coup that ousted Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in 1966, when he was eight. His pan-Africanist father was an Nkrumah loyalist who “died in the upheaval”, he says. “My whole life changed — the innocence went.”
Now 66, the Royal Academician, who was knighted this year and chosen to represent Britain at the 60th Venice Biennale next spring, returns repeatedly in our conversation to the end of innocence. When he arrived in Britain with his mother and brothers the shock was repeated, as what was “paradise compared to where we’d been” gradually revealed its “complexities”.
These complexities were explored by the Black Audio Film Collective he co-founded in 1982, whose first film, “Handsworth Songs” (1986), mirrored the 1985 uprisings in Birmingham and London with a montage of archive footage, newsreel and stills that remains part of his signature style. Co-founder of the production company Smoking Dogs Films in 1998, Akomfrah makes cinema and TV films as well as multichannel art installations such as “Vertigo Sea” (2015), splicing the greed and bloodshed of whale harpooning with images of transatlantic enslavement and modern migration, or “Mimesis: African Soldier” (2018), memorialising forgotten Africans on the first world war’s western front. In a growing body of work on climate disaster, “Purple” (2017), a six-channel meditation on the impact of human progress on wildernesses (showing at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC until January) is named after the colour of mourning in Ghana.
Read the full piece by Maya Jaggi via the Financial Times.
Portrait of John Akomfrah by Cian Oba-Smith.