Akosua Adoma Owusu: Triple Consciousness Films

 

SCREENINGS:
SAT 26/10 AT 17:00 FYRIS


The politics of representation depends on dismantling monolithic, reductive, and “Western”- centric renderings of exoticism and otherness in identities.

Akosua Adoma Owusu is a Ghanaian-American filmmaker, producer, and cinematographer whose award-winning films and installations work to address the collision of identities, where the African immigrant located in the United States has a triple consciousness. 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’s works create spaces where feminism, queerness, and African identities interact in African, white American, and black American cultures.

This third identity or consciousness of the African immigrant transitions between avant-garde cinema, fine art, and African tradition to complicate the nature of identity. Owusu is known to problematize the hair of African women in order to extrapolate the greater cultural anxieties surrounding her racial legacy. Her documentary essay and experimental film work ranges with its varied use of archival material, direct animation, and staged scenes to examine the construction of historical memory and
cultural identity.

Named by Indiewire as one of six pre-eminent Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema, Owusu has exhibited worldwide including at the Berlinale, Rotterdam, Locarno, Toronto, and won numerous fellowships and grants. Currently, she divides her time between Ghana and New York, where she works as an Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Akosua Adoma Owusu will be present at the screening to talk more about her films.


MY WHITE BABY

A lyrical portrait of hair salons in Kumasi, Ghana. The tangled legacy of European colonialism in Africa is evoked through images of women practicing hair braiding on discarded white baby dolls from the West. The film unfolds through a series of vignettes, set against a child’s story of migrating from Ghana to the United States. The film uncovers the meaning behind the Akan term of endearment, “me broni ba,” which
means “my white baby.”

GHANA 2009. 22 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


SPLIT ENDS, I FEEL WONDERFUL

Playful yet powerful, the film focuses on African American women’s hair, spinning found footage of 1970s New York hair salons and hairstyles into a dense collage of gesture, image, and contemporary resonance.

USA 2012. 4 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


RELUCTANTLY QUEER

This epistolary short film invites us into the unsettling life of a young Ghanaian man struggling to reconcile his love for his mother with his love for same-sex desire amid the increased tensions incited by same-sex politics in Ghana. Focused on a letter that is ultimately filled with hesitation and uncertainty, the film both disrobes and questions what it means to be queer for this man in this time and space.

GHANA/USA 2016. 8 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


KWAKU ANANSE

Drawing upon the rich mythology of Ghana, this magical short film combines semi autobiographical elements with local folklore to tell the story of a young American woman who returns to West Africa for her father’s funeral, only to discover his hidden double identity.

GHANA/MEXICO/USA 2013. 26 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu



DREXCIYA

A portrait of an abandoned swimming facility located in Accra, Ghana. The place was once an upscale development, consisting of luxury high-rises and five-star hotels. Since the 1970s, the Riviera has fallen into a dishevelled state. Inspired by afro-futurist myths propagated by the underground band Drexciya, this documentary suggests that Drexciya is a mythical underwater subcontinent populated by the unborn children of African women thrown overboard during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. These children have adapted and evolved to breathe underwater.

GHANA 2011. 12 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


INTERMITTENT DELIGHT

The intersection of identity and cultural appropriation is at the heart of this musically jolty piece. Constructed from a combination of 1960s Afrobeat, traditional Asante Adwoa music, and field recordings of West African production of cloths and garments, this work touches upon the idea of feminism’s uneven geographical and historical development, and the nuances of labor conditions women face depending on where they live.

GHANA/USA 2007. 5 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


MAHOGANY TOO

Inspired by Nollywood’s distinct re-imagining in the form of sequels, this film interprets the 1975 cult classic, Mahogany, a fashion-infused romantic drama. Starring Nigerian actress Esosa E., it examines and revives Diana Ross’ iconic portrayal of a determined and energetic African-American woman enduring racial disparities while pursuing her dreams.

GHANA/USA 2018. 3 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu


WHITE AFRO

A barber school haircut training video on how to give a white person an ”Afro” hair-do. The final film in Owusu’s hair trilogy employs an archival instructional video produced by the educational department of the Barbers’ Association, which is intermingled with Owusu’s mother’s experience working as a hairstylist at a predominantly white hair salon. Offering a rare perspective on the Afro hairstyle—as an unmistakable marker of Black collective power that becomes a desirable, and appropriated, aesthetic during liberation movements—the film also expands on the abilities of non-Black beauticians and barbers to wield their shops as spaces for political change.

GHANA/USA 2019. 6 min. DIRECTION: Akosua Adoma Owusu

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