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Untitled (from Auto Da Fé) (2016)

John Akomfrah

C-type print mounted on Dibond sheet

Mead Gallery / Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick Art Collection

Untitled (from Auto Da Fé) (2016)

© Smoking Dogs Films Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery





C-type photographic print, Aluminium, Dibond

Physical Object Description:

Untitled, 2016 is photograph inspired by Akomfrah’s dual-screen film Auto da Fé, 2016 which translates to ‘Act of Faith’.


101.6 x 152.4 cm

Accession Number:



Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2019/20

Ownership history:

Purchased from the Lisson Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society, 2020; presented to the Mead Gallery, University of Warwick Art Collection, 2020


Black (presence)
John Akomfrah is a filmmaker and artist known for his deeply moving works which reflect on diaspora, colonialism, migration and identity. He was a founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective in 1982 in collaboration with seven fellow artists and had his directorial debut with the film Handsworth Songs (1986) about the 1985 Handsworth Riots. The collective created work that centred the experiences of diasporic communities living in Britain amongst racial tension and political strife.

Untitled (2016) is a photograph inspired by Akomfrah’s dual screen film Auto da Fé (2016) which translates to ‘Act of Faith’. The film follows a series of eight historical migrations over the last 400 years. It begins with the 1654 migration of Sephardic Jews fleeing Catholic Brazil to Barbados. The film spans from the 17th century to the present day depicting the religious persecution and migration of populations from Hombori, Mali, and Mosul, Iraq. Like the film, the photograph employs costumes and sets to create the aesthetic of a period drama to present historical and contemporary cases of displacement and the continuation of religion as a cause of global migration. The location is kept deliberately anonymous as the story of displacement is not confined to a particular region.

This image has a theatrical quality - the eye is drawn to the still, centred pose of the young woman who stands on a solid concrete beam, surrounded by devastation. Her formal costume evokes the 1950s, but the devastation is timeless and universal. Not seeing her expression, creates a sense of ambiguity.

In 2015, the Mead Gallery showed Akomfrah’s film, The Unfinished Conversation (2012), in a solo exhibition. The acquisition of this photograph resonates with this earlier film and continues the exploration of migration in the twentieth century and Coventry’s history as a home to migrants.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited.

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