Ogheneofegor Obuwoma: glimpse: African Cinema Now!

Busy SCA alumnus Ogheneofegor Obuwoma, who was also the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology's Undergraduate Speaker at the June 2022 Convocation Ceremony (read it HERE), took some time out of their schedule to answer a few questions for us about one of their latest ongoing projects, the glimpse: African Cinema Now! film series they curated for the VIFF Centre.

Read on to find out more about the series as well as Obuwoma's many other jobs, activities, and projects ~

Please introduce yourself and share what year you graduated from the SCA and your area of study. Also, are you involved in any other local arts & culture organizations?

My name is Ogheneofegor Obuwoma (She/They). I'm a Nigerian storyteller, writer, and arts worker with a BFA in film and communications. I graduated in 2022. A key question in my practice is, "What does it mean to be a body in relationship to this world and time?" A lot of my work and research emerges here. I consider the body, Nigerian Cultural and social relations, and broader ideas and investigations into Blackness across the diaspora. I'm interested in ideas around futurity and spiritual expansiveness as a site of resistance and reflection. I love to have fun and believe in care for each other as integral to the finished work. I'm also on the board of the Black Art Centre in Surrey, and I love to work with local art organizations when I can, which I've done a bit of in the past few years.

Please tell us about glimpse: African Cinema Now!, your curated film series.

I've been thinking about access to African cinema, its short life span in the festival circuits, and the need for it to live beyond that and be ingrained as a noticeable canon in broader film discourse and history. There's an endurance of classic African cinema that has formed a language of being within dispossession and oppression, and far beyond that. To examine the ways this language and a more extensive lexicon of African storytelling has continued to emerge and expand in refusal to western imagination – I was excited to curate this program focusing on contemporary African cinema from 2017 – now.  

I'm interested in film from a lens I'm personally framing as the spiritual, but is commonly referred to in film as magical realism or surrealism, which deals with sometimes hard-to-articulate situations through often unexpected or unfamiliar means. I think about this idea with the hope of examining the complex space where these genres intersect as a site for possible resistance and for creating a re-newed language when cut off from traditional or cultural practices, specifically in the context of migration, (post-)colonization and the aftermath of trans-Atlantic slavery, which continues to frame and affect the experiences of Black people across the diaspora. This program highlights African cinema, but Black people throughout the diaspora are theorizing and creating a new language rooted in the spiritual as a tool for framing dispossession and the unfathomability of systemic oppression, cultural destruction, and ongoing colonization. I think of the idea of spiritual aesthetics as a meeting point of the past and the future, how we honor history and envision futures yet to come.  

What are the films in the series?

For now, there is This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019), Inxeba (The Wound) (2017), and Augure (Omen) (2023), but more films will be announced soon. Stay tuned.

As a storyteller, did you sequence the films in a particular way in order to develop a larger narrative? If so, please explain.

Yes, I was thinking of these films as a journey, wondering where to start best and how to carry viewers along. Also, it was important to think of representation in terms of themes, countries, and what type of stories get left behind. I hope that at the end of the program, viewers will feel excited about African cinema and gain a sense of familiarity with some themes and visual language.

How did you come to curate the series for the VIFF?

I was a part of the 2023 VIFF Catalyst program, and when we met the VIFF team, I introduced myself to Curtis Woloschuk and let him know I had an idea for a program. He told me he'd get back to me after the festival run, which he did, and he liked the idea, so the program came to be after this. I've been thinking about a lot of the ideas that loosely frame the program since my time at the SCA, and I was finally able to develop this program.

What other curatorial projects are you working on?

I'm also curator in residence at Artspeak, with a show in the works that should be out between October and December, 2024. I've also recently started in the position of Assistant Curator, Engagement at The Belkin Art Gallery, UBC. It's a great position, and I'm learning more and thinking about exhibition-related programming.  

Knowing that you're also a filmmaker, artist, and writer, what artistic projects are you working on?

Filmmaking has been a bit harder since graduating, but I'm glad to be working on my first short film since graduation, which is for Gallery Gachet's BIPOC New Media Screen. I love a cohort-based project, so it's been exciting. I also have a performance at the Western Front in conjunction with their current exhibition, Feral Domestic. A group of us will read the letters we have written as part of an ongoing project by the exhibiting artists titled Shameless Light. I have a film showing in the exhibition, It begins with knowing and not knowing, at The Richmond Art Gallery starting in July.

Returning to the SCA, how was your time here? Any particularly memorable class, events, or people?

I liked the Magic and Cinema class I took in my 4th year with Laura U. Marks; It helped me think of cinema even more as a flexible, unpredictable, and expansive thing. Great teachers and mentors like Kimberly Philips, Joe Clark, and Lina Rodriguez – without their trust in me and guidance, I would be way more confused than I am now :)

What advice would you give prospective and new students to the SCA (and SFU more generally)?

Have fun with your work, and experiment as much as possible. There is a tendency for work to emerge from a place of exploiting others – try to avoid that. Consider what you put into the work and take care of yourself accordingly. Foster relationships that aren't only about making art but about genuine connection and having fun. Focus on what interests you. If your interests aren't available, don't be afraid to advocate and shape it for yourself. Also, apply for everything and take advantage of great workshops in the city. I wish I had the capacity to do more of them! glimpse: African Cinema Now! glimpse: African Cinema Now! is a multipart film series screening monthly at the VIFF Centre (1181 Seymour St., Vancouver).

Visit the glimpse: African Cinema Now! page on VIFF's website to find out more about the series and to see the schedule of screenings. Also, Obuwoma has provided curatorial notes about the festival and all of the films.

March 05, 2024