Marlon Riggs: Freaky Free
“When nobody speaks your name, or even knows it, you, knowing it, must be the first to speak it.”
When Marlon Riggs said this in an essay published in Out/look magazine in 1991 he summed up the process of artistic self-creation that had formed the basis of his seminal work Tongues Untied (1989). He would pass away four years later, at the age of 37, from AIDS-related complications, leaving behind a fierce body of work characterised by a rare ability to articulate the complex intersections of racial and sexual identity.
Riggs was a poet, an educator and a gay rights activist as well as a multi-award-winning filmmaker, including a Maya Daren Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
His works for television, Ethnic Notions (1986) and Colour Adjustment (1991) chronicled representations of blackness in modern American cultural history; exploring how stereotypes are disseminated and reinforced through art and media. In other, more personal works, he incorporated elements of dance, gesture, music and poetry, developing a singular vernacular, in film, that dazzles in its joyousness and clarity of vision.
We’re delighted to present the work alongside a series of creative/poetic responses from artists Evan Ifekoya, Jay Bernard and Paul Maheke, celebrating Marlon’s legacy and infusing the programme with an explicitly contemporary relevance.
This strand is supported by #BFIBlackStar and Film Audience Network