JOHN AKOMFRAH | Peripeteia

2012. HD video, colour, sound, 18:12 min. A Smoking Dogs Films Production, in association with Carroll/Fletcher and the European Cultural Foundation.

John Akomfrah. Still from Peripeteia, 2012. Courtesy of Carroll / Fletcher gallery, London.

John Akomfrah. Still from Peripeteia, 2012. Courtesy of Carroll / Fletcher gallery, London.

Peripeteia (Greek: περιπέτεια; a reversal of circumstances, or turning point) takes as its starting point two drawings by the sixteenth century artist Albrecht Dürer, Head of a Negro Man (1508) and Portrait of the Moorish Woman Katharine (1521), two of the earliest representations of black people in Western art. Filmmaker John Akomfrah imagines the lives of this black man and woman in a moving visualization of stories now “lost to the winds of history”.

For the last 30 years John Akomfrah has been committed to giving a voice and a presence to the legacy of the African Diaspora in Europe; to filling in the voids in history by digging into historical archives to create film essays and speculative fictional stories about past lives. His poetic and polyphonic films create sensual visual and audio experiences while developing a filmic language to understand the trauma and sense of alienation of displaced subjects; one that moves away from the rhetoric of resentment to propose new agents and perspectives.

Born in 1957, John Akomfrah lives and works in London.  His extensive body of critically acclaimed work is among the most distinctive in the contemporary British art world.  An artist, lecturer, and writer as well as a filmmaker, Akomfrah is well known for his work with the London-based media workshop Black Audio Film Collective, which he co-founded in 1982, and for his directorial debut, the seminal Handsworth Songs (1986) – an experimental documentary exploring race and social unrest in ’80s Britain. Since 1998, Akomfrah has worked primarily within the independent film and television production companies Smoking Dogs Films (London) and Creation Rebel Films (Accra). Alongside Akomfrah’s successful career in cinema and television, his work has been shown widely in major international museums, galleries, and film festivals. In 2008, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and in March 2012 he was awarded the European Cultural Foundation’s Princess Margriet Award. John Akomfrah is represented by Carroll/Fletcher gallery, London.