The First World War was waged between empires that were global in their ambitions and reach. Between 1914 and 1918, millions of African soldiers served in long, colonial campaigns that spanned the whole of the African continent, contributing to victories throughout the First World War. In addition to this fighting, African soldiers from British, French and Dutch African territories were brought to Europe’s western front, where they lost their lives alongside unknown, unheralded and undocumented carriers. African Soldier seeks to commemorate these Africans who fought, served and died during the First World War.

This new multi-screen installation by artist John Akomfrah remembers the millions of African men and women who participated in the First World War, either as soldiers or carriers. Projected onto three screens, the artwork combines a powerful sound score, historic footage and newly created film, shot by Akomfrah in locations around the world that speak to the African experience of 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, African Soldier sees Akomfrah use footage from IWM’s extensive archive to tell some of the lesser known stories of the First World War.

African Soldier is part of Making a New World, a season of innovative exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences at IWM London and IWM North in 2018 which will explore how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today.

This 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.

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