© Purchased jointly by Birtish Council and Tate with assistance from the Art Fund 2014

The Unfinished Conversation 2012

John Akomfrah (1957 – )


duration: 45 minutes
Video, high definition, 3 projections, colour and sound (surround)
Accession number


The 1980s was a time of political and social upheaval in Britian, with racial conflicts, anti-government movements, labour strikes, gay liberation and feminist groups influencing culture. During the time, John Akomfrah investigated histories of of migration. A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective (1982-1998), John Akomfrah has gained critical acclaim for his films that give voice to the experience of the African diaspora in Britain, Europe and America. In his work, he repurposes newsreels, combining text, music and archival documents to shift debates on politics, media and received historic narratives.

Produced from hundreds of hours of archival material, The Unfinished Conversation examines identity and memory through the life of Jamaican-born academic Stuart Hall, who arrived in Britain in the early 1950s. One of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century and founding-editor of the New Left Review, Stuart Hall is widely considered to be the father of Cultural Studies. Akomfrah’s rich and multi-layered visual style mirrors Hall’s assertion that identity is never complete, but something always in transition, a process of identity formation he described as ‘an endless, ever unfinished conversation’. For Akomfrah, the work raises questions about what it means to exist differently in society, and about agency, about what we can do after we conceive of these differences.