Film exploring 'migration, racism and religious persecution' wins arts prize


2013 Sundance Portrait - The Stuart Hall Project

A film exploring religious persecution as a cause of migration has scooped a major arts accolade.

Auto Da Fe (2016) reflects on global displacement and was announced as the winner of the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize at a ceremony in Cardiff.

Judges lauded winning artist John Akomfrah for "dealing with issues of migration, racism and religious persecution" in a time when they said it was "more important than ever".

The biennial award is the UK's largest for contemporary art and sees Akomfrah scoop £40,000.

Auto Da Fe, which translates as act of the faith, uses the ocean as a central role to explore eight stories of global displacement over the past 400 years, beginning with the little known exodus of Sephardic Jews from Brazil to Barbados in 1654, through to more present day migrations from Hombori in Mali and Mosul in Iraq.

A founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective, Akomfrah is a former governor of both the British Film Institute and Film London, and has previously produced work examining colonialism and racial tensions in Britain.

On winning the 7th Artes Mundi, he said: "I am absolutely touched by this and enormously grateful for the chance it offers to finally finish off something I have been planning for over a decade."

He added: "Over the years, Artes Mundi has chosen some very brilliant artists for this award: all were important artists doing challenging and engaged work, and to join that group is a huge honour and responsibility."

Akomfrah was handed the award by Ken Skates AM, cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure.

The film was heralded as "extraordinary" by judges.

Artes Mundi director Karen Mackinnon said: "We are delighted to announce John Akomfrah as the winner of the seventh biennial Artes Mundi Prize."

She added: "The prize was awarded for Akomfrah's presentation of Auto Da Fe and for a substantial body of outstanding work dealing with issues of migration, racism and religious persecution.

"To speak of these things in this particular moment feels more important than ever."

Established in 2002, Artes Mundi is an international arts organisation based in Cardiff.

Auto Da Fe will be displayed alongside the other finalists at National Museum Cardiff and Chapter Arts Centre until February 26.