The Stuart Hall Project by award-winning documentarian John Akomfrah (The Nine Muses) opens this Friday with a director Q&A. This emotionally charged portrait of venerated cultural theorist Stuart Hall was originally shown as an installation on three separate screens as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2012. This is a reblog of a post by Parminder Vir on her experience of seeing the original installation. Parminder is the founder and director of PVL Media, with over 25 years experience working in film and media production, finance, and development.
The Unfinished Conversation 2012, by John Akomfrah
For several years now, I have heard that John Akomfrah was making a film about Stuart Hall, so it was great to take a train up to Liverpool on Saturday 17th to see the installation as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2012.
The film unfolds over three screens and takes us from the colonial Jamaica in which Stuart Hall was born to the cold, gray Britain to which he came as a student in 1951. The film, just 45 minutes long, is beautiful, evocative, creative and ambitious. Stuart Hall’s musical voice conveys very simply and yet with universal truth, his internal and external struggles and achievements.
The music is fantastic, lifting the images, for a deeper emotional experience. It was good to see some of the archive from Redemption Songs, the series about history, culture and politics of the Caribbean produced by Barraclough Carey on which I worked as a Series Researcher in 1989. Also a clip from the launch of the Black Experience at the Commonwealth Institute, the last GLC programme I commissioned and produced.
For Julian and I watching the film is being reminded of our shared journey in which Stuart Hall has played a huge role. A dear family friend and mentor for us and many of our generations, Stuart has enabled us all to see identity and ethnic race as not being fixed but “a never ending conversation”. He has often shared the story of being the “darkest” member of his family and the effect that it had on his identity in Jamaica. The liberation in 1968 when he defined himself as black, both a colour of his skin but also his place in Britain. Black as a political identity is what I and many of us engaged with the antiracist politics, embraced. It was the not our colour or our racial origins that defined our identity but our political position in British society. In 1987, I recall giving a talk to students in Morehouse College, a historically black college in the USA and referring to myself as “Black” being asked why I refer to myself as black when I am clearly Asian! It was in this moment of shared history, that Julian Henriques, a son of West Indian Professor and I a daughter of a Punjabi postal worker met and married, thus continuing the never ending conversation of identity. We owe Stuart Hall and his contemporary’s gratitude and respect for they dared to challenge and change our place in this society.
On my way back, I run into David A. Bailey, renowned British Afro-Caribbean curator, photographer, writer and cultural facilitator, alighting from a train with a group of his friends, on his way to see The Unfinished Conversation 2012. We hug and in that moment I recall another moment, when Black and Asian creativity came together and thrived, the GLC Moment.
The Unfinished Conversation was commissioned by Autograph ABP. It was funded by Grants For Arts, Arts Council England and supported by the Bluecoat, New Art Exchange, Nottingham and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University, Royal College Inspire Programme and Akomfrah’s own Smoking Dogs Films Production company.
The Stuart Hall Project opens on Friday 6 September with a director Q&A.