Ephraim Asili’s work celebrates the African Diaspora as a cultural force—a lineage of years and miles that influences contemporary African-American identity and the cultural identity of North America generally. Complicating the traditional travelogue, Asili weaves together the near and the far as a way of revealing linkages across history and geography. Through audio-visual examinations of societal iconography identity, geography, and architecture Asili strives to present a personal vision which could be described as an amalgam of pop, African American and “moving image” culture filtered through an acute sense of rhythmic improvisation and compositional awareness.
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May 7, 2017 at 8:30 pm
Points Near and Far: Recent Work by Ephraim Asili
With Ephraim Asili and Dessane Cassell
15 min., 2011
Photographed on location in Harlem and various locations throughout Ethiopia the film oscillates between the first person account of a film maker, the third person experience of a man navigating the streets of Harlem, and day to day life in the cities and villages of Ethiopia.
19 min., 2013
Oscillating between a street festival in Philadelphia, the slave forts and capitol city of Ghana, and the New Jersey shore, American Hunger, explores the relationship between personal experience and collective histories. American fantasies confront African realities. African realities confront America fantasies. African fantasies confront American realities. American realities confront African fantasies…
Many Thousands Gone
8 min., 2015
Filmed on location in Salvador, Brazil (the last city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery) and Harlem, New York ( an international stronghold of the African Diaspora), Many Thousands Gone draws parallels between a summer afternoon on the streets of the two cities. A silent version of the film was given to jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to use an interpretive score. The final film is the combination of the images and McPhee’s real time “sight reading” of the score.
12 min., 2016
The fourth film in an ongoing series of 16 mm films exploring my relationship to the African Diaspora. This one was shot in Hudson NY and Accompong, Jamaica. Accompong, Jamaica was founded in 1739 after rebel slaves and their descendants fought a protracted war with the British leading to the establishment of a treaty between the two sides. The treaty signed under British governor Edward Trelawny granted Cudjoe’s Maroons 1500 acres of land between their strongholds of Trelawny Town and Accompong in the Cockpits and a certain amount of political autonomy and economic freedoms.
Cudjoe, a leader of the Maroons, is said to have united the Maroons in their fight for autonomy under the Kindah Tree—a large, ancient mango tree that is still standing . The tree symbolizes the common kinship of the community on its common land.
Ephraim Asili is an African-American Artist, Filmmaker, D.J, Radio host, and traveler. Inspired by his day-to-day wanderings Asili creates art that situates itself as a series of meditations on everyday experience and media culture. Through audio-visual examinations of societal iconography identity, geography, and architecture Asili strives to present a personal vision. The results are perhaps best described as an amalgam of pop, African-American and “moving image” culture filtered through an acute sense of rhythmic improvisation and compositional awareness.
Ephraim Asili currently serves as Technical Director for the Film and Electronic Arts Department at Bard College and hosts a radio show on WGXC 90.7 FM Hudson, New York. His films have screened at venues including the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Wavelengths, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Dessane Cassell is a Joint Curatorial Fellow with the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Modern Art, currently working in the curatorial department of the Studio Museum. A native New Yorker and a graduate of Oberlin College, Dessane joined the fellowship program after completing a Fulbright teaching grant in South Africa, where she focused on literacy development and producing a series of podcast and radio projects. As a Joint Fellow, Dessane’s work includes assisting with curatorial, publication, and research initiatives between both museums. Her recent projects include co-organizing a film series and gallery exhibition for MoMA Film, which focused on historical constructions of blackness and otherness in cinema.
This presentation is made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts’ 2017 Electronic Media and Film Presentation Funds Grant program, administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.