Mimesis: African Soldier - New artwork by John Akomfrah remembering the millions of Africans who served during the First World War unveiled at IWM London

19 September 2018

New artwork by John Akomfrah remembering the millions of Africans who served during the First World War unveiled at IWM London

Mimesis: African Soldier (21 September 2018 – 31 March 2019) is a new multi-screen installation by artist John Akomfrah that remembers the millions of African and colonial soldiers, labourers and carriers who served in the First World War. Projected onto three screens, the artwork combines newly created film, shot by Akomfrah in locations around the world, a powerful sound score and historic footage that speak to the African experience of the First World War. The work is co‐commissioned by New Art Exchange, Nottingham, Smoking Dogs Films and 14‐18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the First World War centenary, with additional support from Sharjah Art Foundation.

The First World War was waged between empires that were global in their ambitions and reach. Between 1914 and 1918, millions of African and colonial soldiers served in long campaigns that spanned the whole of the African and European continents, contributing to victories throughout the First World War. These soldiers from British and French African territories were brought to Europe's western front, where hundreds and thousands lost their lives alongside unknown, unheralded and undocumented African labourers and carriers. Mimesis: African Soldier seeks to commemorate these Africans and colonial soldiers who fought, served and died during the First World War.

John Akomfrah is best known for his multi-screen installations, such as Purple (2017), Precarity (2017) and Vertigo Sea (2015). Since founding the influential Black Audio Film Collective in 1982, his work has taken on a multi-layered visual style that fuses archival material and newly shot footage. Continuing this practice, Mimesis: African Soldier sees Akomfrah use historic film, including material from IWM's extensive archive, to tell some of the lesser known stories of the First World War.

John Akomfrah, said: "We have obligations to the dead, historian Carlo Ginzburg once said. Honouring the untold sacrifices made by the many thousands of soldiers, labourers and carriers from a colonised Africa is an obligation. And I am proud to honour it."

Mimesis: African Soldier will be presented for the first time at IWM London as part of IWM's Making a New World, a season of exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences at IWM London and IWM North in 2018. The free season explores themes of remembrance and how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today. Following its presentation at IWM London, Mimesis: African Solider will be shown at New Art Exchange, Nottingham from September – December 2019.


21 September 2018 – 31 March 2019
IWM London
Lambeth Rd
London SE1 6HZ

September 2019 – December 2019
New Art Exchange
39-41 Gregory Blvd
Nottingham NG7 6BE

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Image: African Soldier, John Akomfrah, 2018. Courtesy of Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery. © Smoking Dogs Films


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