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 and installation work have screened worldwide in prestigious film festivals, museums, galleries, universities and microcinemas since 2005. Her films often address the collision of identities. Interpreting the notion of "double consciousness," coined by sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois to define the experience of black Americans negotiating selfhood in the face of discrimination and cultural dislocation, Owusu aims to create a third cinematic space or consciousness. In her works, feminism, queerness, and African identities interact in African, white American, and black American cultural environments.[1][2]

She is an Assistant Professor of Non-Fiction and Expanded Cinema at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.[3]

Akosua Adoma Owusu
BornJanuary 1, 1984
ResidenceGhana, New York
NationalityGhanaian, American
EducationUniversity of Virginia and California Institute of the Arts
Known forKwaku Ananse (film) (2013), Me Broni Ba (2009) and Drexciya (film) (2011)
Notable work
Reluctantly Queer (2016), On Monday of Last Week (2018)
StyleFilm Artist, Producer
AwardsJohn Simon Guggenheim Foundation, 2015 Creative Capital Foundation, 2015 MacDowell Colony Fellow, 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award, 2013

Early life and education[edit]

Born to Ghanaian parents on January 1, 1984,[4] Owusu was raised in the immigrant community in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the youngest of three siblings to Grace and Albert A. Owusu, Sr. Owusu holds master's 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.[5]


Shortly after graduating from CalArts in 2008, Owusu was a featured artist at the 56th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar programmed by renowned critic and film curator Dennis Lim.[6] Named by Indiewire as one of the six Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema,[7] and one of The Huffington Post‘s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know,[8] Akosua Adoma Owusu was a 2013 MacDowell Colony Fellow and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow.[9]

Indiewire describes Owusu's shape-shifting film style:

Trafficking in the “complex contradictions” of blackness, displacement and memory, Owusu seamlessly transitions between experimental cinema, fine art and African tradition in order to create avant-garde films that question the nature of identity.

Her “warring consciousness” as she describes it, becomes the point of departure for her film Me broni ba (my white baby). Using hair as a medium of culture, she examines African and African-American identities and ideologies in an effort to resolve their differences.[10] Artforum listed Me Broni Ba as one of 2010's top ten films [11]

She has produced award-winning films including Reluctantly Queer and Kwaku Ananse. In 2013, Kwaku Ananse received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale and won the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award for the West African nation of Ghana in the Best Short Film category. Kwaku Ananse also participated in the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma - César Golden Nights Panorama of Best Short Films, a program[12] that selects notable short films awarded that year. Her film Reluctantly Queer was nominated for the Golden Bear and Teddy Award at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.[13]

In 2017, Owusu produced "On Monday of Last Week",[14][15] a film adaptation of a short story in celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's collection, "The Thing Around Your Neck." The film secured a nomination at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards[16] and screened at the Fowler Museum,[17] ICA London [18] and 25th New York African Film Festival co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.[19]

In an interview with South Africa's Elle (magazine), in 2015, 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." [20]

In 2011, Owusu exhibited work 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",[21] this show included Revealing Roots, a silent re-enactment 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.

Her films are produced under her production company Obibini Pictures LLC.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Permanent collections[edit]

Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art,[60] the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Fowler Museum.

Rex Cinema[edit]

In 2013, Akosua Adoma Owusu launched a global crowdfunding initiative to ‘Save the Rex’. The Rex Cinema [61] is one of Ghana's oldest cinema houses. During a time of political insecurity in Ghana in the 60s, 70s and 80s, there was a decline in the Arts. All of the cinema houses closed down in the wake of military coups and curfews. Owusu sought to save Rex Cinema for the purpose of preserving cinema houses.[62][63]

In 2016, Owusu developed a screenplay based on her global campaign to Save the Rex Cinema in Ghana at the Camargo Foundation.[64][65]

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.[66]

International recognition[edit]

In 2015, Two films directed and produced by Akosua Adoma Owusu were critics' picks [67] in Artforum magazine.

In 2016, Owusu's film Reluctantly Queer was one of critics’ best films of 2016 in Sight & Sound, a monthly film magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI)[68]

In 2016, Owusu was named by Britain's Royal African Society as their Human of the Week [69] 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.[70]

In 2018, Owusu was commissioned by the Cobo Center to produce a video installation along Jefferson and Washington avenues in downtown Detroit, Michigan during Black History Month.

In 2018, she was awarded an artist in residence by the Goethe-Institut Vila Sul in Salvador-Bahia along with celebrated British installation artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Work Category Result Ref.
2005 Virginia Film Festival Ajube Kete Ken Jacobs Award for Best Experimental Short Film Won
2008 Berlin International Film Festival Me Broni Ba/My White Baby Berlinale Talent Campus Won
2008 California Institute of the Arts Good Hair Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Grant Won
2008 Detroit Docs Intermittent Delight Most Progressive Filmmaker Award Won
2008 Mexico International Film Festival Me Broni Ba/My White Baby Silver Palm Award Won
2009 Athens International Film and Video Festival Me Broni Ba/My White Baby Best Documentary Short Won
2009 Chicago Underground Film Festival Me Broni Ba/My White Baby Best Documentary Short Won
2010 Robert J. Flaherty Film Seminar Work Featured Artist Won
2010 Real Life Documentary Festival Me Broni Ba/My White Baby Special Jury Mention, Best Short Film Won
2011 Black Maria Film Festival Drexciya Jury's Citation Prize Won
2011 African Film Festival, Tarifa Drexciya Special Jury Mention Won
2011 Expresión en Corto International Film Festival Drexciya Best Experimental Short Won
2012 Focus Features Africa First Kwaku Ananse Production Grant Won
2012 Creative Capital Foundation Black Sunshine Film/Video Grant Won
2012 Art Matters Foundation Kwaku Ananse Post-Production Grant Won
2013 Ann Arbor Film Festival Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful Most Promising Filmmaker Prize Won
2013 Berlin International Film Festival Kwaku Ananse Golden Bear Best Short Film Nominated
2013 Africa Movie Academy Award Kwaku Ananse Best Short Film Won
2013 Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma Kwaku Ananse Best Short Film of the Year Won
2013 Arte International Prize Black Sunshine Development Grant Won
2013 MacDowell Colony Fellowship Black Sunshine Screenwriting Grant Won
2014 Berlin International Film Festival Black Sunshine Production Grant Won
2015 Association Cinémas et Cultures d'Afrique Kwaku Ananse Special Jury Mention Won
2015 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Black Sunshine Guggenheim Fellowship Won
2015 Tribeca Film Institute Black Sunshine Tribeca All Access Development Grant Won
2016 Berlin International Film Festival Reluctantly Queer Golden Bear for Best Short Film Nominated
2016 Berlin International Film Festival Reluctantly Queer Teddy Award for Best Short Film Nominated
2016 Baltimore International Black Film Festival Reluctantly Queer Audience Award for Best International Short Film Won
2016 The Camargo Foundation Save the Rex Travel Grant Won
2017 Africa Movie Academy Award On Monday of Last Week Best Short Film Nominated
2018 Pratt Institute On Monday of Last Week Mellon Research Grant Won
2018 International Short Film Festival Oberhausen Oberhausen Film Seminar Featured Artist Won
2018 Goethe-Institut Vila Sul Salvador-Bahia Black Sunshine Artist-in-Residence Won
2018 Cobo Center Marquee Video Art Series Intermittent Delight John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Won
2019 Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts Akosua Adoma Owusu: Welcome to the Jungle The Westridge Foundation Won



Year Film Role
2005 Ajube Kete writer, director, producer, cinematographer
2006 Tea 4 Two director, producer, cinematographer
2007 Intermittent Delight director, producer, cinematographer
2008 Revealing Roots actress, director, producer
2008 Boyant: A Michael Jordan in a Speedo is Far Beyond the Horizon actress, producer
2009 Me Broni Ba director, producer, cinematographer
2010-11 Drexciya director, producer, cinematographer
2012 Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful director, producer
2013 Kwaku Ananse writer, director, producer
2015 Bus Nut director, producer, cinematographer
2016 Reluctantly Queer director, producer, cinematographer
2018 On Monday of Last Week writer, director, producer
2018 Mahogany Too director, producer, cinematographer
2019 Pelourinho: They Don’t Really Care About Us director, producer, cinematographer
2019 White Afro director, producer, cinematographer
in production Black Sunshine (feature film) writer, director, producer

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Akosua Adoma Owusu talks about triple consciousness". ArtForum. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  2. ^ Kozberg, Alison. "Akosua Adoma Owusu on Triple Consciousness". nickelodeon.org. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  3. ^ Institute, Pratt. "Pratt Institute". Pratt Institute. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  4. ^ "On The Verge: Producer - Akosua Adoma Owusu". The Style HQ. Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  5. ^ "University of Virginia Arts Magazine - Akosua Adoma Owusu". University of Virginia. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  6. ^ "Dennis Lim". Dennis Lim. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  7. ^ Page, Aubrey. "6 Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  8. ^ "30 Black Artists Under 40 You Should Know". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  9. ^ "2015 Guggenheim Fellows". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  10. ^ "Akosua Adoma Owusu's Triple Consciousness". African Women in Cinema. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  11. ^ Halter, Ed. "Akosua Adoma Owusu / Top Ten". artforum.com. Retrieved 2010-12-18.
  12. ^ Kwaku Ananse - French Cesar Academy
  13. ^ Berlinale, Berlin International Film Festival
  14. ^ "Another Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Story Is Being Adapted Into a Film". Essence.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  15. ^ Debar, Priscilla. "Meet the Ghanaian filmmaker who's adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". True Africa.co. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  16. ^ Alara, Dimeji. "On Monday of Last Week Interview: With Akosua Adoma Owusu". elle.co.za. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  17. ^ Garcia, Jemina. "The Triple Consciousness of 'On Monday Last Week'". FEM Magazine. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  18. ^ Givanni, June. "Daughters of Africa Screen Narratives: Archive Revelations VII". ICA London. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  19. ^ Film Society of Lincoln Center
  20. ^ Shezi, Ntombenhle. "Meet Akosua Adoma Owusu". Elle Magazine South Africa. Archived from the original on 2017-05-27. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  21. ^ Swanhuyser, Hiya. "Whip My Hair". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  22. ^ "Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts". CCA Wattis Institute. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
  23. ^ "REDCAT". REDCAT(Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater). Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  24. ^ "Yerba Buena Center for the Arts". Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  25. ^ "Video room: Akosua Adoma Owusu". Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  26. ^ "Afro-Atlantic Histories". Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  27. ^ "Institute for Contemporary Art". Institute for Contemporary Art(ICA). Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  28. ^ "Screening: Akosua Adoma Owusu". MCA Chicago. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  29. ^ "Triple Consciousness: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu". BOZAR Cinema. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  30. ^ "African Twilight". African Twilight. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  31. ^ "Fragments of a Dream". McNay Art Museum. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  32. ^ "On Monday of Last Week". Fowler Museum. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  33. ^ "Akosua Adoma Owusu - John Simon Memorial Foundation". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  34. ^ "Atlanta Contemporary Art Center". Atlanta Contemporary. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  35. ^ "New Voices of African Cinema - Akosua Adoma Owusu". Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  36. ^ "Making Africa - Akosua Adoma Owusu". Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona - Akosua Adoma Owusu. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  37. ^ "Tabakalera". Tabakalera. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  38. ^ "Encuentro con Akosua Adoma Owusu". MUSAC. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  39. ^ "L'évènement Akosua Adoma Owusu". Centre Pompidou. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  40. ^ "Triple Consciousness: Films of Akosua Adoma Owusu". Houston Cinema Arts Society. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  41. ^ "Brandon Gallery". Retrieved 2016-07-07.
  42. ^ "Dreamlands: Afrofuturism - Whitney Museum". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  43. ^ "Dreamlands: Pain Revisited - Whitney Museum". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  44. ^ "An Evening With Akosua Adoma Owusu - MoMA". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  45. ^ "Rochester Art Center". Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  46. ^ "America is Hard To See". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
  47. ^ "24700 News from CalArts". California Institute of the Arts. Retrieved 2015-07-09.
  48. ^ "Fowler in Focus: The Art of Hair in Africa". Fowler Museum at UCLA. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  49. ^ "Off-Site Program: In Conversation: Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Akosua Adoma Owusu". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  50. ^ "Do/Tell". ICA Philadelphia. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  51. ^ "Prospect.3". artforum.com. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
  52. ^ "CinemAfrica - Moderna Museet".
  53. ^ "Fore - Smithsonian Libraries".
  54. ^ "Beardenmania" (PDF). ARTnews. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  55. ^ "The Bearden Project". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  56. ^ "VideoStudio: Changing Same". Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  57. ^ "Quadruple Consciousness". voxpopuligallery.org. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
  58. ^ "A Beating Heart of Social Import". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  59. ^ "MoMA Documentary Fortnight" (PDF). Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  60. ^ Whitney Museum Collections
  61. ^ "Filmmaker hoping to rejuvenate Ghana's dilapidated old cinemas". AFP news agency. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  62. ^ Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (April 21, 2015). "Akosua Adoma Owusu: From 'Kwaku Ananse' to 'Bus Nut'". This Is Africa. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  63. ^ Dr. Kwame Edwin Otu (2018-12-08). "Akosua Adoma Owusu Saving Rex Cinema". Design233. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  64. ^ Owusu, Akosua Adoma. "Camargo Foundation". The Camargo Foundation - Save the Rex. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  65. ^ Owusu, Akosua Adoma. "Save the Rex". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  66. ^ McCool, Alice. "Accra at 60: concrete heads and colonial questions in Ghana's capital". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  67. ^ Sutton, Kate. "Akosua Adoma Owusu / Critics' Picks". artforum.com. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  68. ^ "The best films of 2016". Sight & Sound Magazine. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  69. ^ "What's Trending #014: Human of the Week". Whatsonafrica.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  70. ^ "Ten experimental filmmakers tackling the world's big topics". Dazed.com. Retrieved 2017-03-09.