As part of The Healthy City, we are proud to present the European premiere of Five Murmurations, the latest work by the British film maker and artist John Akomfrah (1957), in the Annex*.

Five Murmurations is a highly contemporary portrait of a turbulent time: a worldwide crisis in which the Covid pandemic coincided with the death of George Floyd, the events surrounding the Black Lives Matters protests, and the tearing down of historical statues. As Akomfrah wrote: “It felt like there were almost two pandemics, overlapping, jostling and clashing with each other”. Both events had a worldwide impact and deeply influenced both individual lives and the collective consciousness. A sense of being under threat seems to have spread throughout the world community, and the future feels more uncertain than ever.

A comprehensive archive of images, shot and gathered over a period of 18 months, merges together in a new black-and-white montage spread across three screens. The work comprises five chapters, which Akomfrah refers to as ‘murmurations’, after the dynamic formations taken by flocks of birds to defend against birds of prey. A soundscape, designed by Akomfrah in collaboration with a number of composers, poetically weaves the film parts together.

Five Murmurations is a reflection on our current time and experience; one that is both ominous and frightening, but also healing as we are reminded how a crisis is also an opportunity for change.


Akomfrah is one of today’s most prominent artists. Born in Ghana as the son of an important political activist, and with a youth spent in England, his work addresses urgent geopolitical issues. Themes include Black identity, slavery, imperialism and the demons from the past, and the destruction of the natural environment. In 1982, together with six friends he established the Black Audio Film Collective, and debuted as a documentary maker with the film Handsworth Song (1986), about the 1985 riots in Handsworth. Since the 1990s, Akomfrah has increasingly developed a contemporary art practice, combining video installations, photography and texts to great acclaim. He has had solo exhibitions in leading venues such as the MoMa, Tate Britain and The New Museum in New York. The Guardian describes Akomfrah as “one of the UK’s most pioneering film-makers [whose] poetic works have grappled with race, identity and post-colonial attitudes for over three decades.”

• The Annex is a permanent programme devoted to contemporary art. In the same part of the exhibition building – the last room of Expo 2 and 3 – artists are invited to present an original perspective on the theme of the exhibition on display in the preceding galleries.

Images: © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery. 

Collection in this exhibition

  • No objects from the Centraal Museum collection were shown in this exhibition


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