June Givanni is known as a pioneering curator, writer, and programmer of African film’s who founded a London-based archive that documents Pan-African cinema over 40 years ago. Her amazing work is now being honored, as she is set to receive a Bafta Award for outstanding British contribution to cinema.
The London archive that Givanni founded, known as the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive (JGPACA), has amassed more than 10,000 pieces of media history, including films, manuscripts, audio, photography, and posters that documented Pan-African cinema for over 40 years.
The archive itself is run by volunteers and is known as “one of the world’s most important collections documenting the moving image for the African continent and its diaspora, and includes artifacts that might otherwise not have been preserved,” according to Nadia Khomami, an Arts and Culture correspondent for The Guardian. Givanni also spoke to the publication about the recent honor and the importance of the work they do at JGPACA.
“The award gives us an opportunity to tell people what we’re trying to do because people’s ideas about archives are so varied … Our long-term goal is to enrich knowledge and understanding of Pan-African cinema’s place within the cultural sector, its creative impact and legacy internationally.”
Givanni initially moved to the UK at seven-years-old. Her career started with bringing Third Eye London’s first ever Festival of Third World Cinema. She then worked as a film programmer at the Greater London Council’s ethnic minorities unit.
Her success in the industry continued when she would go on to run the BFI’s African-Caribbean unit, where she compiled the first comprehensive directory of Black and Asian films in the UK. She was co-editor of the BFI’s Black Film Bulletin, and has worked as a curator of film on five continents.
Givanni is also a published author of titles such as Remote Control: Dilemmas of Black Intervention in British Film and TV and Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema: Audiences, Theory and the Moving Image.
Givanni will be presented with the special award next month at the Baftas ceremony. She emphasized the importance of the archives and continuing to preserve history and culture.
“A lot of younger people are amazed by our archive. Because they grew up in the digital age, and they think everything they want to know or need to know is on the internet. And when they come in, it’s so physical, they’re totally blown away. They’re amazed that there’s so much they don’t know,” she said.
“It’s a question of expanding people’s minds about what information is, where it is, and how it relates to what is happening now. That’s one of the philosophical concepts from the Ghanaian culture, called Sankofa. It means looking back to better understand the future.”
“Pan-African cinema [is a] cinema of resistance, a cinema that recognises the value and importance of the African culture and what it can contribute to the world,” she added.
“When I came to the UK from Guyana as a young child in the 50s, I was so shocked at the ignorance of people about who I am. I had come from a society where people are quite ambitious, they encourage you, to one where I was put in a class with children two years my junior because they believed I came from a country where you don’t know how to read or write,” Givanni said.
“So many times people are not seeing you as someone who has anything to offer. Pan-Africanism has always been about knowing your history and being able to situate the value of that within wherever you find yourself in the world. It’s something all of us need to do.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.