Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 7, 2013
In those rip-up days of defiance, as "the UK dealt
with its postcolonial status" the "do-It-yourself aesthetic
of punk was instant."
Young black kids severed both from their diasporic
roots and the colonial attitudes of their immigrant
parents generation "had a crisis of identity, they didn t
know whether they belonged." Like their white work-
ing-class compatriots, "everybody was looking for
something, they didn t quite know what."
Stuart Hall provided Akomfrah and other diasporic
youth with some kind of coherence amid the flux of
"He d come from a colonial space to the heart of
the metropole and rejected the Mimic Man colonial
Hall made sense of the popular culture erupting in
the centre, while simultaneously challenging (racist
and gendered) notions of British cultural homogeneous
Evolving from collective action in school, then the
clubs and finally the political stage, Akomfrah also
found inspiration in the work of Kenyan writer/activist
Ngugi wa Thiong o. While still a student he staged
Ngugi s play The Death of Dedan Kimathi about the
Mau Mau leader hanged by the British in 1957 and
credits Ngugi for alerting him to the crucial issue of
The impetus for collective action "To set up a posse,
some kinda army" led to the formation of the Black
Audio Film Collective in 1982. Searching for pointers
in their project of doing something different, the col-
lective embraced the work of Bengali filmmakers like
Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray ("central for the dis-
cussion about tradition and innovation,") the Cuban
cinema of the 1960s, early Russian film and militant
European cineastes like Godard. All these "gave a sense
While much of Akomfrah s work, first with the col-
lective and more recently with his own Smoking Dogs
Films company from Handsworth Songs (1986) right
down to his documentaries on Malcolm X (1993) and
Martin Luther King (1997) and the latest on Stuart
Hall ,may initially strike audiences as socio-political,
there are no hard lines. Experimentation and a will-
ingness to engage in a multi-disciplinary approach
always inform his work. Music features prominently
(cf the Miles Davis soundtrack to the Hall documen-
"Dub and free jazz are two important musical sen-
sibilities which are important in what I ve done," he
explains. "That s what s great about artistic impulses,
they re beyond either/or (limiting binarism). I don t
need to fully understand the theoretical basis to work.
In the space of art you get to experiment...Holding
conversations with other art forms you trust the dialogue
with the Other. I don t know the answer but when it
comes together this way it moves me, maybe it can
Experimentation, playfulness and especially humour
are all intrinsic elements of Akomfrah s approach and
these give his work an organic and poetic quality, which
far more powerfully conveys multiple meaning rather
than any social realism.
Like Hall, he has contested the bounds and boundaries
of identity, of race and gender and a time worn and
irrelevant cultural hegemony.
"In this period of flux, how do we continue to name?
There s a fatality of misunderstanding about identity."
The "glacial shift in British identity" he has been
active in was achieved by "walking in the centre and
making a dialogue." Reviewing his own life experience,
he s emphatic that "I m an aggregate of previous
moments, from the boy terrified of the military to the
kid who met a bunch of other black kids."
Akomfrah s contribution to transforming popular
culture, of continuing the project of Emancipation,
helping us to accept the multi-identity nature and
complexity not only of diasporic life but the human
condition itself, shows us "other ways to revolutionary
transformation rather than violence."
As he puts it so eloquently: "The complexity of
being presupposes any identity. Everybody is from
multiple locations. The human condition is underpinned
by fluidity, flux and turbulence."
'Human condition is
underpinned by fluidity,
flux and turbulence'
From Page B1
The Stuart Hall Project was one of the John Akomfrah films screened during the
T&T Film Festival.
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