Picha House for Film Africa in London

  • View of the Picha House cotton ribbon ceiling and screen at Rich Mix, London for the Film Africa 2012 Festival
  • The cotton ribbon screen takes the hues of the digital projection
  • The Picha House consists of a carpet of coloured coffee sacks, inflatable cushions wrapped in coffee bags, and a one-kilometre ribbon forming a cinema screen
  • Guests during a movie projection — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • The cotton ribbon forms a textured screen for African cinema
  • Coffee bag carpet and cushions — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • The screen is made of 1 km of continuous cotton ribbon
  • Coffee bag cushions — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • A projection of Film Africa — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • Visitors to the Picha House cinema — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • The screen and the ceiling are made of the same continuous ribbon
  • The ceiling ribbon parabolas diffuse the light of the projection
  • Visitors to the Picha House cinema — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • Shadows of the ribbon ceiling — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • Carpet made of dyed coffee sacks — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • The ribbons wrap around an aluminium bar in a continuous loop
  • The ribbon is weighed by acrylic medallions — Photo: Fiorella N.I.
  • Coloured rope holds plaster sculptures — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • Plaster sculptures by Ranti Bambgala — Photo: Fiorella Nitrato Izzo
  • Artwork created for the event

Picha House for Film Africa in London

Location Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London
Duration 2012 — festival 2-11 November 2012
Client Film Africa
Architects Andrew Tam, Helen Evans, Jean-François C. Lemay, Sanaa Shaikh (Lalibela Cinema Design Collective – LCDC)
Collaborating artist Ranti Bamgbala

In November 2012, the Lalibela Cinema Design Collective created an ‘african-inspired’ alternative cinema space. Picha House (whose name derives from the Swahili pidgin English word for ‘picture’) celebrated the inventive reuse and hand-crafting of everyday materials found throughout the continent of Africa, as part of Film Africa’s Festival in London.

A multi-coloured hessian carpet composed of dyed coffee sacks adorned the floor, while floor cushions provided a flexible seating arrangement for the audience to position themselves as they felt most comfortable. Some sat chatting in clustered groups while others stretched out to lie with coffee cushions as pillows and watch the films flicker over the screen. The no-shoes ‘house rule’ further evoked a sense of being within a domestic environment.

The projection screen was fabricated from a single kilometre strip of natural cotton and hung from the ceiling of the double-height space. By avoiding cutting the material, its integrity was maintained, permitting the temporary installation to be easily taken down and reconfigured for future use in alternative configurations. Custom-designed transparent Perspex weights kept the cotton ribbons hanging in place without disturbing the view of the screen. The strip screen created a subtle fragmentation of the projected image — an abstract representation of the way in which films are often viewed in Africa, through a neighbour’s window or on a smaller screen in a video shack without a high definition image.

Hand-made plaster sculptures by ceramist Ranti Bamgbala hung from coloured ropes at low level, encouraging visitors to interact with them and experience their tactile qualities.

A welcoming and informal cinematic experience, the Picha House was located in the Café Gallery of the Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road, and was open to the public every day from Friday 2 until Sunday 11 November, showcasing films by African and Diasporan African directors.

The Lalibela Cinema Design Collective was founded in 2009 by Andrew Tam, Helen Evans, Jean-François C. Lemay and Sanaa Shaikh. The group formed following the Cinema Lalibela project, undertaken in Ethiopia during their studies at the Architectural Assocation. Cinema Lalibela delivered a custom-designed mobile cinema to the town of Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia, hosting the town’s first film festival and providing a platform to engage with the community.

Film Africa is the UK’s largest festival of African cinema and culture, brought to life by the Royal African Society.