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Screens: A Panafrica Film Series

Exhibition

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For modern and contemporary artists working between Africa and the diaspora, film and photography have been tremendously important forms of creative expression.

The seven moving-image makers featured in Screens share the planetary hopes of Pan-Africanism, a set of bold visions first developed before 1900 that have galvanized global struggles for freedom and solidarity ever since.

The films underscore the great attention paid by African and African diasporic contemporary artists to legacies of the 1950s and ’60s. In those decades, people of African descent worldwide achieved unprecedented gains in national sovereignty, cultural expression, and political recognition. That heyday of decolonization and civil rights sharpened Pan-African imaginations: fostering visions of contemporary self-affirmation, on the one hand, and on the other, a global connectedness for Black people.

Photo of a group of nine dark- and medium-dark-skinned men in colorful robes standing in a line and smiling toward the viewer, a gray background behind them.

Still from The Meaning of Various Photographs to Tyrand Needham, 2009–10


Steffani Jemison

Studio portraiture and photojournalism both assumed great prominence in these decades, whether by offering empowering representations of ordinary subjects or shedding light on struggles for justice and human rights. In 1969, meanwhile, filmmaker Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) produced her first short film, Monogambeee, which captured the essence of struggles for equality in the nation of Angola.

Monangambeee Elisa Et Pestana

Still from Monogambééé, 1969


Sarah Maldoror

The film contributed to broader discourses about the role of the moving image in shaping Pan-African activism and cultural expression. Maldoror’s twin emphases on popular will and personal self-invention reverberate in the films presented in this series, as they address the past and the popular as intertwined sources for inspiration and as a means to envision our shared world.

The following films will be screened during the exhibition run (a screening schedule will be announced before the opening):

Sarah Maldoror, Monogambééé (1969)

Sarah Maldoror, And the Dogs Fell Silent (1978)

Larry Achiampong, Relic Traveler: Phase 1 (2017) 

Mónica de Miranda, Pathway to the Stars (2019)

Zarina Bhimji, Out of Blue (2002)

Sammy Baloji, AEQUARE: The Future That Never Was (2023)

Bouchra Khalili, Foreign Office (2015)

Steffani Jemison, The Meaning of Various Photographs to Tyrand Needham (2009–10)

Surrounding the screening room, a film-like ribbon of approximately two dozen studio and press photographs shows scenes of public life from the mid-20th century and more recently.

Screens: A Panafrica Film Series is curated by AAntawan I. Byrd, associate curator of Photography and Media, Art Institute of Chicago, and assistant professor of Art History, Northwestern University; Adom Getachew, professor of Political Science and Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, University of Chicago; and Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Photography and Media, and vice president for strategic art initiatives.

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