Mnemosyne by celebrated British filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah (b.1957) is a powerful new film installation which focuses on the experience of migrant labour in the UK - a poetic essay on the themes of memory and migration.
To make it Akomfrah combined newly shot footage with archive material from the various television and film archive libraries.
Mnemosyne refers to the mother of the nine Muses, the personification of memory in Greek mythology. Akomfrah's work questions memory and suggest the possibility for endless re-interpretation of historical events by interweaving archival footage from 1952 to 1981 with contemporary 'portraits' of Britain and extracts of new work filmed in a remote snowy landscape.
Often referred to as 'film essays', Akomfrah's work involves the creation of quasi-fictional scenarios, a questioning of the evidence found in archival material. For Mnemosyne, he used the BBC archives as a starting point to explore attitudes, assumptions and understandings about life in the West Midlands during a key moment in Britain's immigrant history.
Snatches of Homer's Iliad with its themes of journeying, alienation, reconciliation and memory are narrated in voiceover through the nine 'chapters' of the film each section named for one of the Muses.