Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) was formed in 1982 in Portsmouth, and moved to Dalston, East London between 1983 and 1998. Widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artist groups to emerge from Britain, BAFC is a pioneering film and video workshop collective initiative. BAFC was formed in response to the civil disturbances in Brixton in 1981 against British institutional racism, to promote a black cultural presence in the British media and arts, with financial and structural support from Channel Four Television, the local metropolitan councils and the films and television unions.
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 has contributed work in the exhibition ‘Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference & Desire’ at the ICA in collaboration with and organised by Iniva. BAFC is also featured in the book Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers, published by Iniva and The MIT Press.
BAFC has won several international awards for works such as Handsworth Songs (1986), Twilight City (1987), Testament (1988), The Mysteries of July (1991) and Who needs a Heart (1991). BAFC has participated in UK exhibitions such as ‘From Two Worlds’, Whitechapel Gallery (1986); ‘The British Art Show’, Hayward Gallery (1990); ‘The Place is Here’, South London Gallery (2017); and international exhibitions such as ‘Documenta X’ (1997) and ‘Documenta XI’ (2002). The first major retrospective of the BAFC, ‘The Ghosts of Songs’, toured in 2007.
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.