‘The kaleidoscopic conditions’ of John Akomfrah’s Stuart Hall
The Unfinished Conversation – and the extended cinema release, The Stuart Hall Project – is, on the one hand, a continuation of Akomfrah’s engagement with iconic black public figures (Days of Hope and The March on Martin Luther King; The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong; Mariah Carey: The Billion Dollar Babe; Urban Soul: The Making of Modern R&B). Unlike Akomfrah’s conceptual approach in those films though, the Stuart Hall films are the dialectical sum of two major thinkers’ ideas. Focusing on Hall’s life and work, the films incorporate what Hall termed ‘the kaleidoscopic conditions of blackness’ into their aesthetic design. This article engages closely with the extended cinema release to explore Akomfrah’s approach to Hall’s mode of analysis, analysing the films’ decentring of wider social narratives, which, I argue, are seamlessly interwoven into both the design of Akomfrah’s montage and the analytic methods of Hall’s work in the field of Cultural Studies. Through close analysis of sequences in The Stuart Hall Project, I demonstrate how Akomfrah’s refined approach to archival montage hails Hall’s writings on identity, realising new analytic possibilities in the coming together of two major postcolonial intellectuals.