Identity is an endless, ever-unfinished conversation": Stuart Hall's Legacy and the Polyphonic Memories of the Black Diaspora in John Akomfrah's Works

Paola Valenti


Since the early Eighties, and up until this day, the Ghanaian born artist, film and video-maker John Akomfrah sets out to intervene in the cultural debate raging all over Britain about black identity and its representation.  As a member of the London based Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), and later in his solo career, Akomfrah creates a counter-narrative around the gap between the dominant discourses on ethnicity and “Britishness” and what was, and is, intimately felt and experienced by the so-called “post-migrants”. Taking Stuart Hall’s statement quoted in the title as a visual enactment, and referring to his theoretical work as well as to his biography, the essay will mainly focus on a trilogy of works that has a direct connection with the legacy of this seminal figure – Handworth Songs (Akomfrah, 1986), The Nine Muses (Akomfrah, 2011), The Unfinished Conversation (Akomfrah, 2012) – and witnesses to the creation of postcolonial black subjectivity intermingling eye-witness accounts, memories, domestic pictures of individuals and families, newspaper images,  archival and newly staged footage in a poetic montage of still and moving images, in an affective interplay of multiple sonic textures, in a non-linear temporality in which past, present and future continuously overlap. 


John Akomfrah; Stuart Hall; Black Diaspora; Ethinicity; Cultural Identity; Archive

DOI: 10.6092/issn.2280-9481/9712


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