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John Akomrah Given Princess Margriet Award + Details On His Next Film Project "Peripeteia"

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 21, 2012 2:04 PM
2 Comments
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John Akomfrah
John Akomfrah

The man probably has a basement full of these awards by now; here's another to add to his stash.

The European Cultural Foundation (ECF) has awarded its Princess Margriet Award to British/Ghanaian filmmaker John Akomfrah - a name I hope most of you are aware of given how much we've written about him over the years.

The prize which is given annually "to European artists, intellectuals and activists who envisage a truly intercultural landscape and strive for societal change,comes with a €25,000 cash prize (about $33,000). 

A little background on Akomfrah for those unaware... originally from Accra, Ghana, Akomfrah moved to the UK as a child. He studied art and sociology in college. At 28, he made his seminal film, Handsworth (1986), about racial and civil strife of 1980s Britain, and has since made 16 other films, including Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), Martin Luther King: Days of Hope (1997) and The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong (1999).

In 1982, he co-founded the Black Audio Film Collective, with the objectives of addressing issues of Black British identity.

His last work, which screened in limited release last year was The Nine Musesdiscussed and reviewed it on the old S&A site HERE.

But his latest work, which I'm only just now learning about, is a film titled Peripeteia. It was screened during the awards ceremony for the attending 350 guests who were said to be delighted by it.

A Google search revealed practically nothing about this new project; his IMDB page doesn't list it. And a search os S&A came up empty, so we've never written about it.

I suppose we'll learn more in coming weeks/months. I can't even tell you whether it's a short or feature; it's likely experimental, since that's the milieu in which he commonly works.

But what I can share is a description of the film which reads:

A moving visualization of two characters drawn in the 16th century by Albrecht Dürer - a black male and female whose stories have been ‘lost to the winds of history’.

Things that make you hmmm...

So I went digging some more... 

First, Albrecht Dürer was a German artist and mathematician of the 15th and 16th centuries, and is regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance, with a vast body of work that includes religious works, portraits and copper engravings. Can't say I'm familiar, but now you know if you didn't. Although I couldn't immediately identify what drawing of his that Akomfrah might be appropriating for his film.

Secondly, the word "Peripeteia" is defined as a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, especially in reference to fictional narratives.

Third, as the description of the project states, the story centers on a black man and woman whose stories have been "lost to the winds of history."

Alright you code crackers, get cracking; put it all together and whomever comes up with the best guess for what the film is all about wins... nothing! :)

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2 Comments

  • Floyd Webb | March 21, 2012 4:21 PMReply

    You hot the nail on the head Vanessa. There is a strong presence of African people in European art during the Renaissance. Check for more background at The Black Presence in Pre-20th Century Europe: A Hidden History (http://www.blackpast.org/?q=perspectives/black-presence-pre-20th-century-europe-hidden-history).



    There are innumerable stories of black men and women and their roles in European affairs even before Peter The Great kidnapped the African boy Ibragim Gannibal from a brothel in Turkey to raise him as his son. This was an experiment, for the Czar, in education versus genetics. Gannibal went on to become a great hero of Russia, a friend to French Philosopher Voltaire, and Govenor Genrral of the city of Reval and the grandfather of Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin. There are some great stories out there, and some of it is straight-up 16th to 17th century gangsta.

    John likes to play with readings of history. This should be pretty interesting. It will be a great procreative moment and seems to come into existance just as an unprecedented exhibition, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe debuts later this year, October 14, 2012–January 21, 2013 at Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

    And before someone says, "who wants to see this yank", lemme answer dat...folks who want a whole history of themselves to realize our connection to the world is real, unlimited, with storiess that extend beyond the urban and operate outside of "slave tales" more often than we think.

  • Vanessa | March 21, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    Well I found two works of Africans by Durer, each of a man and a woman:

    "Portrait of an African Woman Catherine" or "Negress of Brandon" from 1521. http://www.albrecht-durer.net/portrait-of-african-woman-catherine/

    "Head of a negro" 1508 during Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
    http://cghs.dadeschools.net/african-american/europe/durer.htm

    There's actually a back story under the link of "head of a negro." It tries to make a connection between the African man from 1508 and the African woman from 1521. Dure met woman "in Antwerp, in the house of the Portugese trade commissioner." Maybe Akomrah is ficitionalizing history a bit, hence the title "Peripeteia."

    Interesting.
    Click on the 2nd link for more details.

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