Dreaming a Black Scottish Archive: A Family Called Abrew

Naomi Gessesse

Autumn 2022

Even into the 1990s, the profile of film production in Scotland was one of extreme homogeneity, reflecting something of the Scottish imaginary writ large. Long after the influential Workshop Declaration of 1982 had intervened in England’s production environment—platforming the work of activist groups organised around class struggle, women’s rights and racial justice—subsidised filmmaking in Scotland remained resolutely conservative, if not entirely avoidant. When co-founder of Sankofa Film and Video Collective, Maureen Blackwood traversed geographies to develop the modest television documentary A Family Called Abrew (1992), perhaps unknowingly, she also instigated a first on-screen reckoning with absented histories of Blackness in Scotland.

Orbiting this important social document, DOWSER Issue 7 (Autumn 2022) comprises a newly commissioned text by writer Naomi Gessesse: Dreaming a Black Scottish Archive. Gessesse finds contemporary resonance in Blackwood’s eponymous portrait of the Abrew showbiz dynasty, locating the Black Scottish experience as highly particular yet always conversant with a transnational diaspora. In a close review of technique and editorial eye, Gessesse finds patterns which reflect the rhythms of history, familial and universal, painful and healing. In doing so, they provide here nothing less than a new resource for the overdue historicisation of Black film in Scotland.

DOWSER is a non-profit project. This chapbook is released as an open access online PDF and in a limited print edition of 200. These printed versions are available for a contribution of £2.50, inclusive of a minimum £2.00 donation to the Scottish Refugee Council (Registered Charity: SC008639).

Issue 7 has been made possible with the support of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities’ Engagement Funding.

‘Seasonable Talent,’ The Evening Express, 18 December 1942, p.3.