The child of radical political activists who was born in Accra (Ghana) , John Akomfrah is one of the influential figures of the 80s black British cultural scene. As an artist, lecturer, writer, critic and film director, his twenty-year body of work is considered among the most distinctive and innovative to be produced in contemporary Britain.
A musician, photographer, Super 8 filmmaker and enthusiast in his teenage years, Akomfrah was also a founder member of various cine-clubs in London throughout the late seventies and early eighties. And through these organizations helped to champion a wide range of cinemas including Asian and European art house, the militant cinemas of Africa and Latin America as well as American independent and avant-garde cinemas to minority audiences.
A disciple of punk’s DIY aesthetic, Akomfrah in 1982 helped found the Black Audio Film Collective, the seminal, cine- cultural workshop and directed a broad range of work within this critically acclaimed outfit - fiction films, tape slides, single screen gallery pieces, experimental videos, creative documentaries and music videos. Lyrical, poetic and essayistic, his work has always traversed the worlds of fiction and non-fiction, cinema and television, the art gallery and the film festival.
His 1986 film essay, Handsworth Songs – a film that explored the racial disturbances that had broken out across cities in Britain in 1985 - brought Akomfrah to the international circuit. And the film won seven international prizes including the prestigious John Grierson Award For Documentary (UK) in 1987.
His début feature film, Testament was a moving story on African political exile that premiered at Cannes, (Semaine De La Critique) in 1989. And Testament also went on to win a number of international prizes.
Since 1987 Akomfrah’s work has also been shown in a variety of galleries across the world. These include two shows at the Documenta (Germany) as well as shows at the De Balie (Holland); Centre George Pompidou (France); the Serpentine and Whitechapel Galleries (United Kingdom); Museum of Modern Art and The Walker Arts Centre (United States).
A retrospective of Akomfrah’s gallery based work with the Black Audio Film Collective entitled;“The Ghosts Of Songs” recently premiered in England (at the FACT and Arnolfini galleries) and is set to tour the rest of Europe this year.
Established as one of the pioneers of digital cinema in the United Kingdom Akomfrah was awarded the prestigious Gold Digital Award at the Cheonju International Film Festival (South Korea) in 2000 for “the most impressive use of digital technology”.
From 2001 to 2007, John Akomfrah was a Governor of the British Film Institute. And he is currently a Governor of film organization, Film London. He is Visiting Professor In Film at the University Of Westminster (United Kingdom).
John has lectured throughout the world in a range of institutions including - the California Institute of Arts; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Tisch School of Art, New York; The London Institute.
John Akomfrah has also served on numerous film festival juries including the Mumbai, Marseille and Tarifa International Film Festivals. And he is a member of many documentary festival committees including, The Accra and Sheffield International Documentary Festivals.
In January 2008 Akomfrah joined the prestigious Order Of Knighthood (United Kingdom) when he was awarded one of the highest accolades in the Queen’s New Year Honour’s List - an OBE - in recognition for his “contribution to the Film Industry “.
Akomfrah is a director of the film and television production companies, Smoking Dogs Films (London) and Creation Rebel Films (Accra).