Watch Topher Campbell’s 1995 film about the queer artist and activist, Ajamu, for free on the BFI Player.
By the 1980s and 90s, Brixton had acquired a fearsome reputation as home to a rebellious black presence. This tough urban image also hid a thriving gay scene and arts movement, in which young photographer Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba was active. This energetic film traces Ajamu’s jump from South London back to his hometown of Huddersfield, Yorkshire, for an exhibition of his work. Playing with and remixing images of black masculinity cross-cut with a “feminine gentleness”, he attempts, as sociologist Stuart Hall describes, “to transcend both”. Often explicit and very humorous, his approach is never dull, provoking controversy and shocked amusement in equal measure.
The film also boasts a visual feast of local landmarks that either no longer exist or have been altered beyond recognition – look out for the scenes under the arches of Brixton station. There’s also a substantial line-up of interesting characters: apart from Stuart Hall, the film includes activist Michael Cadette (formerly of the Race Today collective established by Darcus Howe), leading black photographer David A. Bailey and a homophobic cameo from a very young and fresh-looking Terence Maynard (Coronation Street’s Tony Stewart).