AUTOGRAPH, LONDON

Wilfred Ukpong: Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos

16 Feb – 1 Jun 2024

Free Exhibition
Curated by Mark Sealy

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Visual meditations on the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta

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Autograph
Rivington Place
London EC2A 3BA, UK

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opening hours

Wed, Fri: 11am - 6pm
Thur: 11am - 9pm
Sat: 12:30-6pm

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Utilising aspects of Afrofuturism and mysticism, artist Wilfred Ukpong creates compelling and poetic reflections on the crisis of environmental degradation and exploitation in the Niger Delta. Drawing on historical and personal archives, ecology politics and indigenous environmentalism, his work demonstrates how artmaking can be used as a tool for social empowerment and to confront continued, aggressive colonial practices.

Once a major producer of palm oil for British colonisers, the Niger Delta is considered the mainstay of the Nigerian economy for its large oil reserves and its rich biodiversity due to the presence of rivers, mangroves, freshwater forests, and marine estuaries. In recent years, the region has been at the centre of environmental and social justice campaigns, challenging the pollution caused by major spills and flares at the hands of oil and gas industry giants.

The works in the exhibition are all set in the Niger Delta, Ukpong’s homeland. Driven by a profound desire to effect change, the artist worked with more than two hundred young people from marginalised, oil-producing communities to collectively address the historical and environmental issues in the oil-rich region. The resulting photographs and film powerfully reference local rituals, ceremonial motifs, and symbols interwoven into a complex future cosmology.

Through a futuristic lens, Ukpong underscores the need to understand the detrimental impact of this extreme extraction on both people and land.




“Community history, ecology politics, indigenous environmentalism, extractive capitalism, and cultural evolution, these meditations on my homeland demonstrate how the art and filmmaking process can be employed to promote youth empowerment, challenge colonial narratives and disrupt systems of knowledge production.”

— Wilfred Ukpong


EXHIBITION PREVIEW

The Advent of the Visionaries-A Screen to Behold, 2017

By and by, I Will Carry this Burden of Hope, till the Laments of my Newborn is Heard #2, 2017

Gallery 1

Are My Dreams too Bold for the Carbon Skin I Bear #1, 2017

EVENTS

Artist-Led Exhibition Tour

Fri 16 Feb, 6:30 - 7:30pm

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Exhibition Opening

Free, Thu 15 Feb, 6 - 8pm

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digital content

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Call for Writing: Photography, Colonialism and Climate Justice

Free to enter | Deadline 4 March 2024
We're looking to publish new writing that critically engages with the ways in which photography can speak to issues of colonialism and climate justice. The successful applicant will receive a £300 fee, editorial support from Autograph and publication on our website.

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5 Things to Know About Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos

Introducing Wilfred Ukpong's exhibition at Autograph

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VR Visit

Virtually visit highlights from the exhibition with this VR experience

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Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos Resource List

Exploring themes of Afrofuturism, socially engaged practice and the politics of representation

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African Cosmologies playlist

Lose yourself (or, perhaps, find yourself) in this playlist curated by Mark Sealy

Listen

From the Niger Delta to Southall

Selina Nwulu considers the issues that bind the struggles for racial and climate justice

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Afrofuturism, Mysticism and Climate Justice

Online gallery of Wilfred Ukpong's work

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about the artist

Wilfred Ukpong

Wilfred Ukpong is French Nigerian interdisciplinary artist and researcher whose distinctive socially engaged practice utilises several interwoven mediums including photography, film, sculpture, performance and creative workshops to tackle pertinent social issues with community participation and intervention.

Ukpong’s works have been exhibited at Alliance Française/Mike Adenuga Centre (Nigera), FotoFest, Houston (USA), Institut Français du Nigeria Abuja (Nigeria), MARKK Museum Hamburg (Germany), Pipe Factory Glasgow (UK), Royal Society of Arts, London (UK), Welt Museum Vienna (Austria) amongst others. His long-term project Blazing Century 1 received a special grant from the Prince Claus Fund Amsterdam (2010); his film Future World (2017) won the Golden City Gates Excellence Award at ITB Berlin (2018). Ukpong received his BA/MA in Fine Arts from Ecole Supérieure d'Art Lorient, France and his PhD from Oxford Brookes University (UK). He lives and works between Oxford (UK), Clermont-Ferrand (France), and Eket (Nigeria)

Follow the artist on Instagram.

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YOUR VISIT

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Everyone is welcome at Autograph. Planning a visit? Have a look at our Visit Us page to find out more about getting to the gallery, accessibility and more.

The gallery will be closed on Thursday 22 February from 6-9pm for our book launch 'Shining Lights: Black Women Photographers in 1980s-90s Britain'

SAFETY MEASURES

Accessible VEnue

Autograph welcomes people with all types of disabilities.

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Step free

Our building and entrance is step free. A wheelchair accessible lift goes to all floors.

also at autograph

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte: Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain

Free exhibition, 16 Feb – 1 Jun 2024
Interweaving indigenous knowledge, colonial legacy and ecological urgency

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Acknowledgements

Blazing Century 1: Niger-Delta/Future-Cosmos formed a prominent part of the group exhibition African Cosmologies: Photography Time and Other, at FotoFest Biennial 2020 in Houston (USA), curated by Mark Sealy. The large-scale show examined the complex relationships between contemporary life in Africa, the African diaspora, and global histories of colonialism, photography, rights and representations.



supported by

Banner image: Wilfred Ukpong, Strongly, We Believe In the Power of this Motile Thing That Will Take Us There #2, 2017. From the series Blazing Century 1: Niger-Delta/Future-Cosmos. Courtesy of the artist and Blazing Century Studios.

Exhibition preview: All works from the series Blazing Century 1: Niger-Delta/Future-Cosmos. © and courtesy of the artist and Blazing Century Studios. 1) Wilfred Ukpong, The Advent of the Visionaries-A Screen to Behold, 2017. 2) Wilfred Ukpong, By And by, I Will Carry This Burden of Hope, Till the Laments of my Child is Heard #2, 2017. 4) Wilfred Ukpong, Are my Dreams Too Bold for the Carbon Skin I Bear #1?, 2017.
3) Wilfred Ukpong: Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos exhibition at Autograph. 16 February - 1 June 2024. Curated by Mark Sealy. Photograph by Kate Elliott.

Other images on page: 1) Wilfred Ukpong. Courtesy the artist. 2) Autograph. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell. 3) Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Ixchel - Mayan Moon and Birth deity, 2021. From the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain. Courtesy the artist.