John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explores the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a charged combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognisable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. Other works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a moving portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Peripeteia (2012), an imagined drama visualising the lives of individuals included in two 16th century portraits by Albrecht Dürer and Mnemosyne (2010) which exposes the experience of migrants in the UK, questioning the notion of Britain as a promised land by revealing the realities of economic hardship and casual racism.
The Genome Chronicles (2008) by Akomfrah was produced by Smoking Dogs Films in association with Iniva and was included in Iniva’s 2008 exhibition ‘Donald Rodney in Retrospect’. The film was created in memoriam to Akomfrah’s close friend Donald 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.
He has had numerous solo exhibitions including at New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (2019); BALTIC, Gateshead, UK (2019); ICA Boston, MA, USA (2019); Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal (2018); Imperial War Museum, London, UK (2018); New Museum, New York, NY, USA (2018); Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (2015, 2018); Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, DC, USA (2018); SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA, USA (2018); Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2018); Barbican, London, UK (2017); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2017); Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2016); Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (2016); STUK Kunstcentrum, Leuven, Belgium (2016)
Akomfrah lives and works in London, where he is a trustee at Tate.