John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker whose work investigates personal and collective histories through memory and a consideration of cultural, ethnic and individual identity in our postcolonial era. Combining archival and new footage, Akomfrah’s practice gives a voice to the experiences of the African diaspora. As a member of the Black Audio Film Collective in the 1980s and 1990s, he made documentaries that played an important role in establishing and portraying a black national culture in the UK and beyond.
Akomfrah’s commission, Tropikos is both a continuation of and a departure from earlier work. An experimental costume drama set in the 16th century, the film focuses on the waterways of South West England and their relationship to the slave trade. Akomfrah describes Tropikos’s fictional narrative as being about Plymouth and its place at the centre of British maritime history. The film is set at a time when Britain’s position as a global seafaring power coincided with the enforced displacement of millions of African people across the Atlantic Ocean. As though walking through a dream, characters dressed in beautiful period costumes seem to be ghosts enacting a series of real and imagined stories, to tell the tale of a history built on slavery and stolen treasures.
- Artwork Details: running time: 36 minutes 41seconds
- Material description: Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound
- Credit line: A 70th Anniversary Commission for the Arts Council Collection with the River Tamar Project and Smoking Dogs Films. © Smoking Dogs Films.
- Medium: Film and Audio Visual
- Accession number: ACC25/2015