New Acquisition: John Akomfrah ‘Mimesis: African Soldier’
GoMA and Glasgow Museums are delighted to announce an incredible award through Art Fund and 14-18 NOW enabling us to collect a major work by one of the most important contemporary British artists. John Akomfrah’s Mimesis: African Soldier (2018) will be a powerful addition to the Glasgow Museums’ collection visibly telling the stories of people from the Commonwealth who were called up and served under the British Empire, addressing a significant gap in the story about World War I that Glasgow Museums’ collections currently tell. We are thrilled to be working again in partnership with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on the joint acquisition of this work.
14-18 NOW was the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. Working with arts and heritage partners across the UK, they commissioned new artworks from 420 contemporary artists, musicians, film makers, designers and performers, inspired by the period 1914-18. A key work in this programme was Mimesis: African Soldier by John Akomfrah (b 1957) casting a critical postcolonial perspective on the war on highlighting the contribution of people from across the Commonwealth in WWI.
Akomfrah’s works are characterised by their investigations into personal and collective histories and memory, cultural, ethnic and personal identity, particularly the experience of people of colour. By interspersing archival footage, audio and photographs with fictional filmed scenes Akomfrah explores lives and experiences often hidden by a more dominant narrative. Through this particular, non-linear lens on history he refers to current day situations by raising questions about how our understanding of the past has informed present tensions and inequality. Mimesis: African Soldier is representative of Akomfrah’s current approach to his work and includes archive footage and sound, filmed scenes on locations in Africa and Europe, still life scenes with water and an emotive soundtrack that engages you throughout the work. It takes the viewer on a poignant journey that a number of African and South Asian men took from their homes, to the battlefields in World War I and how that experience informs their return (or not).
As John Akomfrah said in an interview about the work “Whatever the life is that you have got as a person of colour, we have arrived at that life in large part because of sacrifices made by people from elsewhere who are very rarely acknowledged and it is important that they are.” Mimesis: African Soldier, 2018 is significant work in reminding people of this and is a valuable addition to Glasgow Museums’ collection supporting its vision to connect people, objects and place.
We look forward to showing this work in Glasgow and are particularly grateful to Art Fund, 14-18 NOW, our partners at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and John Akomfrah for this opportunity to acquire Mimesis: African Soldier for the city.