How can a personal collection be turned into an archive that is accessible to the public? How does one capture the spirit of such an endeavour and represent its significance? What is the potential of the archive as an academic and curatorial resource? These are some of the questions that have inspired a new venture to support the Pan-African Cinema Archive that June Givanni has collected, through a partnership with Birkbeck and the University of the Arts London, Chelsea, funded by Creativeworks London Voucher scheme on archives.
June Givanni has curated and collected over a period of four decades, an important archive of Pan-African and black diaspora cinema which has been produced over the last sixty years. This collection includes films, photographs, audio interviews, articles, books, catalogues, journals, magazines, pamphlets, posters, scripts and memorabilia. Many are in non-digital formats. June is a part of the archive herself: her curation over the years has been formed of the experiences and events in which she has participated, and includes her involvement as part of a network of African and black diaspora filmmakers and curators who believe in a politically committed cinema. She has played a significant part of this era herself, through her curatorial work at the Third Eye Film Festival in London in 1983; running the African-Caribbean unit at the British Film Institute during the 1990s, where she produced the Black Film Bulletin, organised the Africa 95 film conference, and edited the collection, Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema: Audiences, Theory and the Moving Image(2000); and through her continuing curating role at international film festivals, in Toronto, Kerala, Nigeria, Ethiopia and of course at the biennal African film festival FESPACO in Burkino Faso.
At the heart of June’s inspirational curatorial intervention is the significance of Pan-Africanism to the spirit in which her archive has been formed. Her intellectual work in promoting Pan-African cinema, expanding and incorporating its international legacy and reach through her collection of the cultural artefacts of black cinema across the African diaspora, has been a personal journey. She has enmeshed their presence within the archive creating reminiscences and reminders of this important historical era in cinema. As I write we are poised for June’s collection to be exhibited through a series of events to take place throughout October, 2014 and they are a fitting tribute to June’s deep engagement and commitment to African and black diaspora cinema, and her ground-breaking work to ensure its recognition for future generations. The outcomes of the public exhibition of the archive are yet to be realised however and we will be reflecting on its impact and significance, as well as the fruition of our research collaboration over the next few weeks.
Movements: June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive, includes a major exhibition of materials from the archive in the Cookhouse Gallery from 16th October – 27th October; screenings of films about the place of the city in black filmmaking over three days at the Triangle Gallery, curated by June Givanni with the Chair of Black Arts, Professors Sonia Boyce and Paul Goodwin at the University of the Arts London (Chelsea); an further exhibition at the Peltz Gallery, Biography of an Archive, Birkbeck from 10th October to 25th October, alongside a roundtable discussion between filmmakers, curators and scholars at the Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image: Pan-African Cinema, Nègritude and the Archive, on the 18th October, 2014 with further screenings at the Gordon Square cinema on the 10th October, 24th October and the 7th November, 2014.
To visit the Movements: June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive exhibition and screenings and roundtable:
To browse the June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive, see www.junegivannifilmarchive.com
This article was first published on the Creativeworks London website on 13th October 2014.
Emma Sandon, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, University of London