Artist Statement

How is the City your studio? "Traditionally anthropologist travel to different cultures to study customs and create ethnographic work. But for me, it is more practical, and just as important to exam my own society. I film and photograph every where I go, collecting images and stories. I always find new and interesting stories in Chicago I want to share. As a facilitator and programmer, I share ethnographic documentaries, films and new media that explore themes of ethnicity, identity, and culture in unexpected ways. I show films in any space that will allow me, and engage communities in conversation about life at home, and conditions abroad."

Featured Artist Portrait by Joe Mazza | Brave Lux Chicago

I am a visual anthropologist. I make documentaries that explore culture and identity through observational cinema, and ethnography. I create audio-scapes that use photography, interviews and sink sound to explore complex topics from an emic perspective. I teach film to children using methods of ethnography to help them develop fiction narratives based on their real life situations. I also document children to better understand their process of learning and the influence of relationships with their families, and social institutions like school. My methods are academic, but my video work seeks to capture life as it is, raw and authentic.
I was raised with art, and cinema in particularly. My father, filmmaker Ade Olatunji, taught me how to photograph, and I continued to study filmmaking through high school and college. I always liked taking candid photos and I believe it is important to document our every day lives, in order to better understand the humanity we all share. As a post-modern visual anthropologist, my greatest inspiration comes from the family and community right around me. I love to follow my camera into spaces and stories that have need to been shared .I am interested in reflexivity and including my subjects in the process of production. I love to follow my camera into spaces and share stories that have never been told.
What's Next?
I am continuing to work on my series of films about three young girls living in the south shore Chicago, as they learn art and life lessons. I am always editing and showing new scenes and short vingettes of my project. I plan to show my ethnographic prints, and videos this fall at gallery art shows. I will be a media educator for the Chicago's International Children's Film Festival hosted by Facets for the fourth year. I am a writer for Peeps Forum, Anthropology Magazine, and you can read my film column anytime online at
Ife Olatunji is a visual anthropologist specializing in observational cinema and ethnographic methods of documentary with children. Ife won a New York International Film and Video Fest Best Documentary Award for her film 'Fidel: A Hip Hop Activist'. Her previous film, 'Lessons from the Tiger' on life for girls in India, has been in several international ethnographic film festivals including, Culture Unplugged and Athens EthnoFest. She has been a media educator and award jury member with Chicago International Children's Film Festival, hosting many screenings and discussions with filmmakers and producers from around the world.