Akosua Adoma Owusu

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Akosua Adoma Owusu (born January 1, 1984) is a Ghanaian-American avant-garde filmmaker, producer and cinematographer whose films have screened worldwide in prestigious film festivals, museums, galleries, universities and microcinemas since 2005. “Owusu uses various production techniques to visualize a state of triple consciousness,[1] a term she coined in reference to a central tenet of the sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois’s landmark text The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Du Bois' double consciousness accounts for the experience of black Americans negotiating a sense of selfhood in the face of discrimination and cultural dislocation.

As part of the first generation in her family to be born in the United States, Owusu extends Du Bois’s concept to speak to the crisis of heritage and assimilation for African expatriates and their US-born children." Owusu has stated that “instead of ‘Africanizing’ Western stories, I’m interested in reclaiming African history rendering them into what is happening in the present day.”

Early life and education[edit]

Born to Ghanaian parents, Akosua Adoma Owusu grew up in an immigrant community in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the youngest of three siblings to Grace and Albert A. Owusu, Sr. She was the first baby born in Northern Virginia on January 1, 1984. Owusu holds MFA degrees in Film & Video and Fine Art from California Institute of the Arts and received her BA in Media Studies and Studio Art with distinction from the University of Virginia, where she studied under the mentorship of prolific avant-garde filmmaker, Kevin Jerome Everson.[2][3]

Career[edit]

Owusu was a featured artist at the 56th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar programmed by renowned writer and film curator Dennis Lim. [4] Named by Indiewire as one of the six Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema,[5] and one of The Huffington Post‘s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know,[6] Akosua Adoma Owusu is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow.[7].

Her films are produced under her production company Obibini Pictures LLC. She has produced many award-winning films including Reluctantly Queer and Kwaku Ananse, which received the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Short Film. Reluctantly Queer was nominated for the Golden Bear and Teddy Award at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.[8]

In 2017, Obibini Pictures LLC produced "On Monday of Last Week",[9][10][11] a film adaptation of a short story in renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection, "The Thing Around Your Neck." The film secured a nomination at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards[12] and premiered at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, before screening at the Fowler Museum and the 25th New York African Film Festival co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Moving between the worlds of experimental film, African cinema, and fine art, Owusu established her presence in the fine art world with her showing in 30 Seconds Off an Inch at the Studio Museum in Harlem. At 25, Owusu was the youngest artist to be included in this exhibition of 60 distinct artworks by 42 established artists at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Meanwhile, the Museum of Modern Art screened Me Broni Ba, which “contemplates the obsession with white standards of beauty,” in its Documentary Fortnight program.

In 2011, Owusu exhibited work alongside her University of Virginia mentor Kevin Jerome Everson in Cusp: Works on Film & Video by Kevin Jerome Everson & Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Luggage Store Gallery. Called the “intimate and the ideal realization of the vision of a valuable genius",[13] this show included Revealing Roots, a silent reenactment of one of the most dramatic scenes from the television version of Alex Haley’s Roots combining found footage and scenes that star Owusu along with other African actors.

Since 2009, Owusu has been featured in major international exhibitions including Shorts and Influences with Akosua Adoma Owusu at UnionDocs; Modern Mondays: An Evening with Akosua Adoma Owusu[14] and Re-Presenting the Archive: An Evening of Shorts[15] at the Museum of Modern Art; L'évènement Akosua Adoma Owusu[16] at the Centre Georges Pompidou; America Is Hard to See and Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 at the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Art of Hair in Africa[17] at the Fowler Museum at UCLA; Two Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at Art + Practice [18] in association with the Hammer Museum; Prospect.3: Notes for Now New Orleans Triennial;[19] Do/Tell at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Fore, VideoStudio, and Bearden Project at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Collections[edit]

Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Fowler Museum, Yale University Film Study Center, and Indiana University Bloomington, home of the Black Film Center/Archive.

Rex Cinema[edit]

In 2013, Akosua Adoma Owusu launched a crowdfunding initiative to ‘Save the Rex’. The Rex Cinema [20] is one of Ghana’s oldest cinema houses. Political insecurity in Ghana in the 60s, 70s and 80s led to a decline in the Arts which also affected cinema houses. All of them closed down in the wake of military coups and curfews. At the time, there were only few modern cinemas in Ghana’s capital Accra. Owusu sought to change that statistic by reviving the Rex to its former glory. Her crowdfunding campaign was a success.

“I visited the Rex after she and her team had begun work – the exterior had a bright yellow new coat, the chairs within the interior compound were a shiny blue. I listened to Adoma describe the kind of films and events that could take place at the new Rex and felt excited about the future of filmmaking and the arts in Ghana. Just as the new Rex was close to being re-launched, Adoma started facing all sorts of challenges and blocks from civil servants. Rather than feel demotivated she decided to return to the States and create a new body of work.” [21] Despite Owusu’s best efforts, the process was extended and the project was stalled.

In 2017, The Guardian announced that Owusu is working on a part-real life, part-fictionalized feature film about her campaign to restore Accra’s historic Rex cinema.[22]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Her forthcoming feature, Black Sunshine received support from Creative Capital, Tribeca All Access,[23] IFP, ARTE International Award [24] and the Berlinale World Cinema Fund.[25] In an interview with South Africa's Elle Magazine, Owusu said "I began filming in Ghana as a way to find a place in my Ghanaian heritage. I often refer to myself as a Ghanaian-American, but I do consider myself to be an American filmmaker of Ghanaian descent. When I am in America, I feel very Ghanaian and when I’m in Ghana, I feel more American. I started traveling to Ghana with my friends from America to help me with the trauma of dealing with blackness both in Africa and in the African diaspora. My love for Africa was informed by romantic ideas about the continent as a home awaiting my arrival. Filming in Ghana, forms part of this journey." [26]

In 2013, her film, Kwaku Ananse received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale and won the 2013 African Movie Academy Award in Nigeria for Best Short Film. Kwaku Ananse participated in Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma - César Golden Nights Panorama program of Best Short Films of the year, a program that selects notable short films awarded in 2013. Her film, Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful received the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 2013.

Owusu’s short work, Me Broni Ba exhibited in over 100 international film festivals and museums around the world and won Best Short Film awards at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and Athens International Film Festival in 2009.[27] Artforum named Me Broni Ba as one of 2010’s top ten films [28][29]

Following the success of Me Broni Ba, Owusu's next short work, Drexciya, was inspired by a myth of the Detroit-based techno band. It was praised at the 2011 Tarifa African film festival for its 'radical nature’ and ‘poetic insight’ and went on to win Best Experimental Short at the 2011 Guanajuato International Film Festival [30] in Mexico.

In 2015, Two films directed and produced by Akosua Adoma Owusu were critics' picks [31] in Artforum magazine.

In 2016, Reluctantly Queer [32] a film directed, produced and photographed by Owusu won the award for Best International Short at the Baltimore International Black Film Festival. The film previously screened at New Directors/New Films,[33] the International Film Festival Rotterdam, [34] the BFI London Film Festival [35] and also the Berlinale. Reluctantly Queer was one of critics’ best films of 2016 in Sight & Sound, a monthly film magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI)[36]

In 2016, Owusu was named by Britain's Royal African Society as their Human of the Week [37] and by South Africa’s Elle (magazine) as one of 50 incredible women.

In 2017, she was named by Dazed magazine as one of ten experimental filmmakers tackling the world’s big topics. [38]

Filmography[edit]

  • 2018, Mahogany Too, (3 mins) super 8
  • 2017, On Monday of Last Week, (14 mins) super 8 & HD video
  • 2016, Reluctantly Queer, (8 mins) super 8 transfer to video
  • 2015, Bus Nut, (7 mins) super 8, 16MM transfer to video
  • 2013, Kwaku Ananse, (25 mins) film
  • 2012, Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful, (4 mins) film transfer to video
  • 2010-11, Drexciya, (12 mins) video
  • 2009, Me Broni Ba, (my white baby) (22 mins) film & video
  • 2008, Boyant: A Michael Jordan in a Speedo is Far Beyond the Horizon, (4 mins) super-8
  • 2008, Revealing Roots, (9 mins) HD video
  • 2007, Intermittent Delight, (5 mins) 16MM film & video
  • 2006, Tea 4 Two (2 mins) 16MM film
  • 2005, Ajube Kete, (6 mins) 16MM film

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Two Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu". Exhibitions - Jamillah James. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  2. ^ Kevin Jerome Everson
  3. ^ "HOOS FOR ART: Akosua Adoma Owusu • UVA Arts". University of Virginia Arts. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  4. ^ Dennis Lim
  5. ^ Page, Aubrey. "6 Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  6. ^ "30 Black Artists Under 40 You Should Know". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  7. ^ "2015 Guggenheim Fellows". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2015-10-13. 
  8. ^ Berlinale, Berlin International Film Festival
  9. ^ "On The Verge: Producer - Akosua Adoma Owusu". The Style HQ. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  10. ^ "Another Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Story Is Being Adapted Into a Film". Essence.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18. 
  11. ^ Debar, Priscilla. "Meet the Ghanaian filmmaker who's adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". True Africa.co. Retrieved 2016-06-22. 
  12. ^ Alara, Dimeji. "On Monday of Last Week Interview: With Akosua Adoma Owusu". elle.co.za. Retrieved 2017-07-17. 
  13. ^ Swanhuyser, Hiya. "Whip My Hair". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  14. ^ "An Evening With Akosua Adoma Owusu - MoMA". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  15. ^ "Re-Presenting the Archive: An Evening of Shorts with The Studio Museum in Harlem". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2017-08-17. 
  16. ^ "L'évènement Akosua Adoma Owusu". Centre Pompidou. Retrieved 2016-09-03. 
  17. ^ "Fowler in Focus: The Art of Hair in Africa". Fowler Museum at UCLA. Retrieved 2015-11-10. 
  18. ^ "Off-Site Program: In Conversation: Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Akosua Adoma Owusu". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 2015-09-27. 
  19. ^ "Prospect.3". artforum.com. Retrieved 2015-01-13. 
  20. ^ "Filmmaker hoping to rejuvenate Ghana's dilapidated old cinemas". AFP news agency. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  21. ^ Sekyiamah, Nana Darkoa. "Akosua Adoma Owusu: From 'Kwaku Ananse' to 'Bus Nut'". This Is Africa Lifestyle. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  22. ^ McCool, Alice. "Accra at 60: concrete heads and colonial questions in Ghana's capital". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  23. ^ "Fifteen Projects Selected for Tribeca Film Institute All Access Grants". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  24. ^ Ndlovu, Andile. "Durban FilmMart Winner Touts 'Sunshine,' Ghanaian Cinema". Variety. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  25. ^ "Akosua Adoma Owusu's 'Black Sunshine' is a Berlinale World Cinema Fund Selection". Indiewire. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  26. ^ Shezi, Ntombenhle. "Meet Akosua Adoma Owusu". Elle Magazine South Africa. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  27. ^ "40 Festivals and Counting: Me Broni Ba (my white baby) on the Film Circuit". 24700 News From California Institute of the Arts. Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  28. ^ "Me Broni Ba (My White Baby), 2009". artforum.com. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  29. ^ Halter, Ed. "Akosua Adoma Owusu / Top Ten". artforum.com. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  30. ^ "Drexciya - Guanajuato Winners 2011". Guanajuato International Film Festival. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  31. ^ Sutton, Kate. "Akosua Adoma Owusu / Critics' Picks". artforum.com. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  32. ^ Asch, Mark. "The New York African Film Festival's "Africa in New York" Shorts". Brooklyn Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-05. 
  33. ^ "The Best of New Directors/New Films 2016 Might Be These 3 Documentary Shorts". NonFics.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  34. ^ "Akosua Adoma Owusu - International Film Festival Rotterdam". Rotterdam Film Festival. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  35. ^ "Every film by a black director at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival". Little White Lies. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  36. ^ "The best films of 2016". Sight & Sound Magazine. Retrieved 2016-12-20. 
  37. ^ "What's Trending #014: Human of the Week". Whatsonafrica.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  38. ^ "Ten experimental filmmakers tackling the world's big topics". Dazed.com. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]