Aya Films was founded in 2011. The name is inspired by the Adinkra symbol (Aya) which is represented by a fern tree to symbolise a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places.

Beyond the Adinkra symbol the word Aya holds international meaning across cultures. In Arabic it is a feminine name written as آية meaning "wonderful", "amazing" or "miracle". Aya is also in use in Hebrew and means "to fly swiftly" or "bird". In Mongolian, similar to Turkish, it means "goodness", "music", and "melody". Inspired by these international connections we want to bring together multiple curatorial perspectives which frame and position a variety of films from across the world for audiences, offering renewed representations through cinematic re-imaginings.

The company’s original focus was on distributing African and Black cinema in places it wouldn’t typically be shown. Although we will continue to distribute some titles from the African continent we have also branched out to other world cinemas. We undertake a collaborative approach to distribution through which we strategically forge partnerships to position the films. 

Since its formation Aya Films has shifted to include curatorial training through the platform Curate-It, an app that makes information about the practices of curation accessible in a digital space. Curate-It is accompanied by a VoD platform so that participants can use it to implement their own screening event. Through this we have moved to show films from across the world, each curated through the unique lens and perspective of the community of curators we work with.