John Akomfrah

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John Akomfrah
Born 1957 (age 56–57)
Accra, Ghana
Occupation Film director
Years active 1986-present

John Akomfrah, OBE (born 4 May 1957)[1] is an English artist, writer, film director, screenwriter and theorist. He made his debut with Handsworth Songs, which examined the fallout from the Handsworth riots.[2] Handsworth Songs went on to win the Grierson Award for Best Documentary in 1987.[3]


Akomfrah was born in Accra, Ghana, to parents who were involved with anti-colonial activism. In an interview with Sukhdev Sandhu, Akomfrah said: "My dad was a member of the cabinet of Kwame Nkrumah's party.... We left Ghana because my mum's life was in danger after the coup of 1966, and my father died in part because of the struggle that led up to the coup."[4] Akomfrah was educated at schools in West London and at Portsmouth Polytechnic, where he graduated in Sociology in 1982.[1]

He is best known as one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective, which was active between 1982 and 1998, and which was dedicated towards examining issues of Black British identity through film and media.[1] In 1998, together with Lina Gopaul and David Lawson, his long-term producing partners, he co-founded Smoking Dogs Films.[5]

From 2001 to 2007 he served as a Governor of the British Film Institute.[6] From 2004 to 2013 he served as a governor of the film organisation, Film London.[7]

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours, for his services to the film industry.[8] In March 2012 he was awarded the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margriet Award.[9] In 2013 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of the Arts London[10] and Goldsmiths, University of London.[11] In 2014 Akomfrah was awarded an honorary doctorate from Portsmouth University, the reformed polytechnic that he had graduated from in 1982.

He has taught classes and courses at esteemed academic institutions around the world, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[12] Brown University, New York University, Westminster University, Princeton University.

Selected filmography[edit]


External links[edit]