This project focuses on the representation and positioning of women in Ceddo Film and Video Workshop, Sankofa Film and Video Collective and the Black Audio Film Collective. Emerging during the 1980s, the Black Workshops sought to counter conventional depictions of ‘Blackness’ through an experimental filmmaking practice that also challenged the norms of British film and television. Despite their contemporary relevance, the Black Workshops have been relatively neglected in studies of both British cinema and the avant-garde while the films themselves remain difficult to access. The significance of the Workshops, moreover, is now primarily linked to male figures, particularly the work of Isaac Julien and John Akomfrah, with the result that the role played by women members in shaping the Workshops’ formal approaches and thematic concerns has been largely neglected.
Through a combination of archival research, interviews, textual analysis and public engagement, my research seeks to redress this marginalisation of women’s role by foregrounding the significance of women’s concerns and strategies in the Black Workshops and identifying the plurality of issues they navigated (ranging from racial and sexual violence to the complexities of diasporic experience). In doing so, the research will relocate the Black Workshops within the histories of avant-garde filmmaking and British cinema in order to highlight the ways in which they constituted an alternative feminist British filmmaking practice that placed Black female experience, identity and representation at its core.
At a time when the Black Lives Movement has called for an amplification of Black voices and an enhanced historical understanding of past experiences and injustices, the project will not only reinstate the Black Workshops within the historiographies from which they are presently omitted, but also encourage public and critical engagement with their work through an exhibition and related public-facing activities.