Until 31 March 2019

IWM London

Free event

John Akomfrah's new multimedia installation remembers the millions of Africans and people of colour from across the globe who fought and took part in the First World War.

The First World War was waged between empires that were global in their ambitions and reach. Between 1914 and 1918, millions of African and colonial soldiers served in long campaigns that spanned the whole of the African and European continents, contributing to victories throughout the First World War. These soldiers from British and French African territories were brought to Europe’s western front, where hundreds and thousands lost their lives alongside unknown, unheralded and undocumented African labourers and carriers. Mimesis: African Soldier seeks to commemorate these Africans and colonial soldiers who fought, served and died during the First World War.

South African Labourers balance as the work in Contingent in France, 1917.
Work of the South African Labour Contingent in France, 1917 © IWM (413)

This new multi-screen installation by artist John Akomfrah remembers the millions of African and colonial soldiers, labourers and carriers who served in the First World War. Projected onto three screens, the artwork combines newly created film, shot by Akomfrah in locations around the world, a powerful sound score and historic footage that speak to the African experience of the First World War.

John Akomfrah in front of Mimesis: African Soldier
Photo © IWM / Film © Smoking Dogs Films John Akomfrah in front of Mimesis: African Soldier, co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, New Art Exchange, Nottingham and Smoking Dogs Films, with additional support from Sharjah Art Foundation

John Akomfrah is best known for his multi-screen installations, such as Purple (2017), Precarity (2017) and Vertigo Sea (2015). Since founding the influential Black Audio Film Collective in 1982, his work has taken on a multi-layered visual style that fuses archival material and newly shot footage. Continuing this practice, Mimesis: African Soldier sees Akomfrah use historic film, including material from IWM’s extensive archive, to tell some of the lesser known stories of the First World War.

Troops of the South African Native Labour Corps around a brazier at their camp in Dannes, March 1917.
Troops of the South African Native Labour Corps around a brazier at their camp in Dannes, March 1917 © IWM (Q 4875)

Mimesis: African Soldier is part of Making a New World, a season of innovative exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences at IWM London and IWM North which explore how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today.

The work is co‐commissioned by New Art Exchange, Nottingham, Smoking Dogs Films and 14‐18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, with additional support from Sharjah Art Foundation.

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IWM London building
IWM
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