Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah's 'Tropikos' opens at The Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia

29 July 2019

John Akomfrah’s 2016 film Tropikos is a beautiful meditation on Britain’s participation in the ugly, traumatic Transatlantic Slave Trade, and is now on view at The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the mid-sixteenth century, England began exploiting the natural resources of Guinea in West Africa, shipping raw materials and humans between Guinea and the port city of Plymouth. The film confronts that moment in history, exploring the more complex and often subtle dynamics between the slave owners and the people they enslaved. Akomfrah uses still camera shots to create a giant tableau vivant —still living picture—filled with wealthy English merchants in decadent dress silently engaging with their enslaved Africans along Plymouth’s coast. The eye-to-eye interactions suggest the unseen emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological violence millions of African peoples endured for centuries, resulting in immense riches for their European captors.

The presentation at The Chrysler Museum of Art continues through 5th January, 2020. For more information visit

Image: John Akomfrah, Still from Tropikos, 2016
Single channel colour video © Smoking Dogs Films
John Akomfrah's 'Tropikos' opens at The Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia
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