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Black Diaspora Cinema

The Stuart Hall Project

John Akomfrah


John Akomfrah pays homage to Stuart Hall, the Jamaican cultural theorist, founder of the New Left and essential part of British cultural studies, in this captivating, fascinating story in which he mixes images from his enormous audiovisual archive, with his own reflections, television interviews with Hall, and a post-war sound map with Miles Davis’ trumpet.

Through his “affective montage” and ontological radicalness when confronted by oppression in form and content, Akomfrah composes a sophisticated, intertextual, and provocative portrayal from which to return to the years of the emergence of the New Left, when the population of the African diaspora in the United Kingdom reclaimed and questioned its identity in the face of excluding British nationalism.

The artist, writer, theorist, and filmmaker John Akomfrah (Ghana, 1957) is one of the key filmmakers of the black diaspora. A member of the Black Audio Film Collective, (United Kingdom, 1982), which became known with Handsworth Songs (1986) about the clashes the previous year between minority ethnic communities and the police, Akomfrah has devoted decades to the radical black tradition in his writings, lectures, joint projects, and works that examine questions of race, identity, and the erasure and distortion of postcolonial history.

Both the film The Stuart Hall Project and the multi-screen video work The Unfinished Conversation, which were presented in parallel (MoMA) are intimate sonic-visual essays in which Akomfrah portrays the life, the work, and the context around the postcolonial cultural theorist Stuart Hall, opening up new reflections on the sidelined stories and defining changes of the twentieth century. With his characteristic archive work, intertextuality, contrasting of sources and meticulous attention to sound, Akomfrah interweaves political narratives and personal stories through footage gathered in his work as an archivist, punctuating them with new images (family photographs among trees in a forest, bathing in a stream or the sea and thus echoing Paul Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic”), which provide the work’s emotional thread. The sound archaeology of Miles Davis, Hall’s favourite musician, is determinant as the map of an era, alluding to the fragmented identity of the diasporic subject, which Hall referred to as the “unfinished conversation”.

Both works, one for the cinema and the other for the museum-gallery, whether in dialogue or independent, opened up for the artist new spaces in the world of art. Questioning the traditional concept of the final, inalterable, and immutable work, Akomfrah shows with this dual proposal the necessary malleability of and negotiation with the twenty-first-century subject, and the stellar position of the black diasporic artist.

From 5 Febraury to 6 June the Fundació Antoni Tàpies presents de exhibition "John Akomfrah. Vertigo Sea".


The Stuart Hall Project
John Akomfrah
2013/ United Kingdom / Digital screening / 93 min / Original version with Spanish subtitles

Prerecorded presentation by John Akomfrah (director)

This activity is part of William Kentridge, Black Diaspora Cinema

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