Ephraim Asili
Song for My Mother

Working across mediums, Ephraim Asili weaves together fragments of popular culture and personal narrative to tell stories that situate individuals and the ideas that inform them within broader historical contexts. In Song for My Mother (2023), a new three-channel film installation, Ephraim takes inspiration from his own story and charts a process of ancestral awakening that arose out of a period of tremendous personal loss.

Guided by the residual threads of family folklore, the installation investigates Ephraim’s journey across North Florida, from the small town of Quincy where the remains of his maternal lineage reside, to Daytona Beach, the home of Bethune Cookman University (BCU), one of the state’s four remaining Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Founded in 1904 by noted educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, the school’s leadership was passed on to Ephraim’s great uncle Dr. Richard Moore in 1947, whose story forms the film’s narrative core. By layering gathered footage from across various sites, including unscripted interviews and performances arising from chance encounters with members of the BCU community, with archival materials and other cultural iconography, the installation functions as a historical journey that crosses and connects space and time to the past, present and future.

By relocating the personal within a wider context of what Ephraim calls “Black radical collectivity,” Song for My Mother establishes a dialogue with his first feature film The Inheritance (2020), a semi-fictional documentary that follows the inner workings of a Black Marxist commune in Philadelphia. Working in tandem, both films explore the nature of the collective, from the interpersonal to the institutional, within the Black American experience and its importance in establishing and maintaining safe spaces for Black people to think outside of the constant reminders of a racist society.

Song for My Mother is part of Rituals of Speaking, a film-led series that explores how artists represent the voices of others through collective storytelling.

Images: Song for My Mother (video stills), 2023. Courtesy of Ephraim Asili.

About the artist
Ephraim Asili is an African American multidisciplinary artist and educator whose practice centers the African diaspora as a cultural force. Often inspired by his quotidian wanderings, he creates art that situates itself as a series of meditations on the everyday. He received his B.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and his M.F.A in Film & Interdisciplinary Art at Bard College. Ephraim’s art has been exhibited in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlinale, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His 2020 feature debut The Inheritance premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was later acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In 2021 Ephraim was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. And in 2022 he was commissioned by Louis Vuitton to direct two projects, a short film, Strange Math, and the live stream broadcast of their 2023 Men’s Spring/Summer fashion show. In 2023 he was awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University. Ephraim currently serves as the Director of the Film & Electronic Arts at Bard College, where he is also an Associate Professor.
Rituals of Speaking
Rituals of Speaking is a film-led series that explores how artists represent the voices of others through collective storytelling.
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