Karimah Ashadu


Karimah Ashadu (Nigeria/UK) is an artist and filmmaker whose practice is concerned with perceptions of self and place, and notions of labour pertaining to Nigeria and West Africa. Her work has been exhibited at Hamburg Kunstverein and Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Leipzig), De Ateliers (Amsterdam), MoMA, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Faena Arts Center (Buenos Aires), and Faena Forum (Miami).  She is the recipient of several awards and grants including the Filmförderung Hamburg, African Culture Fund and Hamburg Kulturstiftung. She has been awarded jury prizes at Media City Film Festival (2013), Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the European Media Art Festival. She was a Featured Artist at the 64th Robert Flaherty Seminar (2018), and participant of artists’ institute De Ateliers (2014-2016). Ashadu was winner of the 2018-2020 Edith Breckwoldt Studio Fellowship, in association with The Ministry of Culture Hamburg and Künstlerhaus FRISE.  She was awarded the ars viva prize 2020. Her work is in public collections at the Museum of Modern Art and in the City of Geneva’s Contemporary Art Collection. In 2020, Ashadu established her film production company Golddust by Ashadu, specializing in artists’ films on black culture and African themes. She will be an artist in residence on Fogo Island, Canada in 2020. She lives and works in Hamburg and Lagos.


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: December 2 – December 23, 2020

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Makoko Sawmill, 20 min, 2015; King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko), 5 min, 2015

Makoko Sawmill, 20 min, 2015

Curious blue sticks probe Makoko Sawmill. Whole trees from all over Nigeria, float on the Lagos State Lagoon, converging at this humble mill. Domestic traces—an air of languor mingles with the trade. Area boys watch and wait. Halted machines similarly await revival. Nigeria Power Holding Company has ceased the electric.

Sticks drift
Heavy toil
Manual shift

An order emerges. Groups of men aka “Pullers,” “Rollers,” “Carriers,” work together to process wood, women and children resourcefully recycle sawdust. All the while observed by idiosyncratic blue sticks doing nothing and everything at once. Framing, measuring, chasing. Watching and waiting.

King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko), 5 min, 2015

King of Boys is a window into the abattoir of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria. The men butcher heads of bulls and rams. Decapitated heads with raging horns once brutal, docilely await the butcher’s block. Nothing is wasted: horns, offal, bone, skin, all destined for distinct uses. Deftly wielding heavy axes and large sharp knives, precision is key; A rhythm arises. Spatially, almost mirroring the set-up of theatre in the round, butchers are grouped per task, with each group and its specificity of craft unfolding like scenes of a play. Animal skins boil in steaming vats of water over open fire, knives sharpen, noisily scraping the hairs off. Bones are hacked and horns attacked, decorating the ground like battlefield carnage. The atmosphere is visually layered and aurally complex. A collage of gestures, a cacophony of noises: muffled conversation, footsteps of passers by, generators powering up, crackling fires boiling skins, relentless axes slamming into dense bone, the soundtrack from a nearby television set loudly playing a Nollywood movie...

King of Boys explores the ways in which colour manipulates filmic language. The device becomes such an instigator of narrative and atmospheric resonance that in this almost violent world with macabre undertones and hyper repulsive conditions, the viewer is strangely seduced by the device’s red filter and compelled to watch.


Springing from her personal life experiences as a young artist, Karimah Ashadu’s works bridge with the far-reaching legacies of experimental film and video-making by black women from the 1970s to the 1990s. Now in preparation of her first feature film, Salt Mine, her near 20 short-length videos, made since 2011, have developed the idiosyncratic dualities of her British-Nigerian identity. Self-determined, purposeful, and free despite small budgets, her videos and installations derive from a training in painting, art history, architecture, and spatial design. In her work, Ashadu steps into the everyday and the ordinary while fighting against expectations of trauma, endurance, and spectacle associated to race and gender. In this, her videos speak to the early creations of African-American artists including Ayoka Chenzira and Cheryl Dunye, and American Yvonne Welbon, Cauleen Smith, and the Video Drawings by Howardena Pindell. – Mónica Savirón

Read full article on MUBI here.

Portrait of Karimah Ashadu by Kadara Enyeasi (2017).