The films of Ghanaian-American director Akosua Adoma Owusu (b. 1984) draw inventively from diverse traditions of avant-garde cinema to explore the rich complexities of culture and identities forged between Africa and the US. Balancing personal reflections upon her own experiences with an insightful engagement with popular culture and mythology, Owusu’s films have made her a rising star of the experimental film scene. A student of Kevin Jerome Everson at the University of Virginia, Owusu is informed by a strong documentary impulse, as well as by a frequent engagement with performance, printmaking and sculpture—art forms that she studied while completing her MFA at CalArts. The wide range of cinematic approaches embraced by Owusu are showcased in such work as her experimental found footage film White Afro, made by radically repurposing a hair styling instructional film, and her film essay me broni ba which studies the afterlife of blond-haired dolls recycled from the US and used for practice by Ghanaian hair stylists. Kwaku Ananse, meanwhile, reveals Owusu’s talents as a narrative filmmaker with a moving and partially autobiographical fable inspired by popular Ghanaian folklore. Together Owusu’s films reveal the power of cinema to explore what she, borrowing from W.E.B. Du Bois, has called the “triple consciousness” of a Black woman filmmaker navigating the distinct cultures of Black America and Africa, and pushing against the deep-seated patriarchy still at work in contemporary filmmaking. An intimate exploration of the “third space” uniquely opened by the cinema is offered by Reluctantly Queer, a collaboration between Owusu and Ghanaian cultural anthropologist Kwame Edwin Otu that meditates on the experience of a gay Ghanaian man, played by Otu himself, struggling to communicate with his mother and to understand his place in the world. – HG
The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome Akosua Adoma Owusu, currently a Visiting Professor in Art, Film and Visual Studies at Harvard, for an in-person visit to present and discuss her extraordinary work.
Intermittent DelightDirected by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2007, digital video, color, 5 min.
BoyantDirected by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2008, digital video, color, 4 min.
Reluctantly QueerDirected by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2016, Super 8 transferred to digital video, black & white, 9 min.
White AfroDirected by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2019, 16mm transferred to digital video, color, 6 min.
me broni ba (my white baby)Directed by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2009, digital video, black & white, 22 min.
Kwaku AnanseDirected by Akosua Adoma Owusu.
US, 2013, digital video, color, 25 min.