Ackee & Saltfish, Emeke’s short films challenge and explore contemporary black british identity
Ackee & Saltfish opens with a freewheeling conversation between two black British women. When Rachel (Vanessa Babirye) and Olivia (Michelle Tiwo) wonder through Dalston looking for Ackee and Saltfish, not only do they confront the gentrification of their East London home, but the appropriation of Caribbean culture.
The back and forth between the two women is familiar. Discussions about the sudden absences of well loved places and the slow homogenization of London through coffee shops, farmers markets and unaffordable housing, the consequent supplanting of, not only a people, but their loved cultural hubs are surely the thoughts and discussions of every Londoner, watching as London slowly – but surely – evolves and changes (sometimes for the better) but not always.
Written and directed by Cecile Emeke, Ackee & Saltfish challenges the mainstream portrayals of black women as subservient, modern jezebels, gold diggers or baby mamas. In only seventeen minutes, Emeke creates black women who are not only instantly recognizable and identifiable, but who have been absent from British screens for a long, long time.
Emeke’s short films beautifully challenge and explore contemporary black identity – all of its nuances and diversities – weaving with it a personal voice that articulates the experience of young black women (and men) in a country that has bulldozed our history, mostly erased the achievements of black men and women in British history from the national curriculum, displaced men, women and families to compete in some of kind of ‘global race’ and still wonders why young black Britons (and other men and women of color) are feeling alienated.
Not surprisingly, Emeke is already making waves overseas. Her thoughtful and often powerful short documentary series Strolling, which ‘connects the scattered stories of the African/Black diaspora’, now has a French counterpart, Flâner.
You can watch and support Ackee & Saltfish here.
– Hannah Campbell