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Amber Akaunu catch up

1. How are you? How have the past 18 months been for you?

I’m doing okay. As I write this, I have just finished my masters degree so I’m quite tired and feel like I need a month break but overall I’m good! The past 18 months have definitely had its ups and downs (emphasis on the downs). I’ve had some incredible experiences and then some really difficult challenges to overcome, which I think most people in the world can relate to. I’ve moved to London, I’ve had family pass away and have definitely suffered with my mental health at times. It’s just been a strange time. I’m grateful though to be an artist and to have the time and space to process how I am feeling through my practice. 

2. You did your Masters this year, at Goldsmiths College in London - but it wasn’t until Summer 2021 that you actually got to go to the campus. How was it doing your masters remotely?

Yes, I moved to London in May of this year and before then, I’d not visited campus at all! It was definitely tough. I think the hardest part was not feeling like a student. I wasn’t taking on as much freelance work but felt like I should be working more because I wasn’t a real student if that makes sense. I’m lucky that my classmates were so lovely and would organise online meet-ups and would stay in contact often. My MA is a practical film course and so there’s only so much you can learn online. I’m happy that I got to spend the last 3 months of my MA on campus, using the university’s facilities such as edit suites, cameras, music equipment etc. I finally got to feel like a real student, although that feeling only lasted for a short while as I have now officially finished my degree. The time has gone by so fast!

3. The film you made, Homerton 2 Homerton, is homage to your family and the unexpected ways Homerton weaves through your life. 

Homerton 2 Homerton is a 20-minute documentary film I made around themes of home, journey and education through the connection my brother, Arel, and my mother, Jessica, have to Homerton. The idea for this film came about not long after my brother was accepted to Cambridge University’s Homerton College, as through this, my mother revealed to us that her first home in the UK, after she left Nigeria due to a coup, was in Homerton. It made us all really reflective of the journey we had taken as a family, and as individuals. The more I began exploring this story, the more was revealed that made me sure that this is what I want to make my film about. For example, Homerton actually comes from a German word (my mother was born in Germany) that means home or native country. I also found out that Homerton College was first located on the road that my mother lived on when she moved to the UK. All these new discoveries were very affirming and I’m so glad I got to make this film. During filming, my mother’s parents passed away and so I decided to dedicate this film to them to honour their lives and their contribution to where we are as a family today. I was a bit nervous about showing my mum and brother the film when I had finished, however they loved it. They felt like they were represented accurately and enjoyed watching their story unfold in film.

4. You contributed to a publication “In Other Words” that came out in 2020. Tell us about the project and how you came to be involved. 

I was invited to contribute to the publication and was so excited to be given the freedom to express how I really feel about the term “back to normal” that was thrown about a lot during the beginning of the pandemic. Normal is a very loaded word and my take on this was to look at the things that are “normalised” in society that have very racist undertones. I presented this in the form of an eye test with the top letters representing obvious covert racism and the lower letters representing overt racism that is often overlooked and denied. 

Here is some information on the book in general: The book was devised at the start of the Covid -19 pandemic in the UK, and was initially inspired by an Arundhati Roy quote in April 2020.

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred … or we can walk through lightly, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

5. You won the Student Inspiration Award! Congratulations!!! Has receiving this award opened any new doors for you?

Thank you!! It was such a confident boost winning this. I’m awful at stopping to reflect and celebrate achievements etc, however, this did that for me. Through the award, I’ve been introduced to lots of interesting creatives and artists which has led to some cool collaborations and work opportunities! 

6. You were involved in 20 Stories High’s TOUCHY project. Tell us more about how that came about and the film you worked on.

20 Stories High are an incredible organisation here in Liverpool. I started in their youth theatre when I was around 13 years old and there influence on me has been so impactful and positive so when they contacted me about this project, I was so excited. Touchy is a series of films around touch and the film I worked on was about Sophie and her Ghanian grandad who aren’t allowed to be together due to lockdown. I was working on this film just after my grandad passed away. The first time I met my grandad was in Ghana so being part of this project felt extra special. The film uses stop motion, digital animation, photography and video to illustrate this beautiful granddaughter and grandfather relationship and share how important connection, and how the pandemic has impacted our connections with our loved ones.

7. Through your magazine ROOT-ed you invited to curate an exhibition for Jerwood and Tetley, that will open in 2022. Tell us more about the project and what you are working on. 

Yes, ROOT-ed Zine were selected to curate an exhibition based on a proposal we submitted. We were thinking about the cycles that we often see throughout history, which was brought about through finding out about the Spanish flu pandemic which came about around the same time as the 1919 race riots. We wrote this proposal during the pandemic, while protests and riots were happening all over the world after the murder of George Floyd. We hope to invite three artists to explore the past, present and future while also showcasing historical cycles with the aim to bring awareness and for that awareness to be a foundation for people to begin changing these cycles. 

8. What are looking most looking forward to over the next 6 months?

I’m looking forward for all the projects I’ve been working on to come to life. Although, if I am honest, I am also looking forward to having a break. I started learning bass guitar and Korean during the pandemic and it felt so nice doing something that wasn’t work related so I hope to continue this and maybe in the next 6 months I’ll be able to speak Korean, and play a few songs on the bass guitar.

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