‘A cinema of resistance’: how June Givanni amassed a 10,000-piece pan-African film archive

While the exhibition at London’s Raven Row gallery is called PerAnkh: The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive, the Black British film curator, activist and archivist who created it is hesitant about positioning herself front and centre. “I don’t want it to sound like it’s all me, me, me,” she worries. “My name is part of it because I worked as a curator for many years and collected work throughout the non-digital era, which developed into this archive.”

Though she wants the films, documents, artworks and objects she has preserved to be the focus of people’s attention – from an installation of the earliest audiovisual works by the Black Audio Film Collective to new works by the Chimurenga collective from South Africa – Givanni is more than worthy of the spotlight. When she received the British independent film awards’ grand jury prize in 2021, the organisers said that she had “made an extraordinary, selfless and lifelong contribution to documenting a pivotal period of film history”.

Born in British Guiana 72 years ago, Givanni moved to the UK aged seven and was immediately underestimated. “They put me with the five-year-olds because I was Black and I’d come from the Caribbean,” she remembers. “My mum went to the school twice before they moved me up to my age range.” As an adult, Givanni collaborated with some of the most significant figures and institutions in pan-African cinema and across “different territories, different continents”. She kept adding elements to her collection, she says, “because I needed to use them for subsequent programmes and as part of building a body of knowledge and a whole series of resources that can be shared with others.”


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