Wilfred Ukpong is an interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, researcher, and activist. A long-term collaborator with Autograph, we supported the artist in 2021 to produce a new 30-minute, performance based film work. Earth Sounds was shown as part of Ukpong's new solo exhibition BLAZING CENTURY 1, organised by the Institut Français du Nigéria.
In Earth Sounds, the artist, flanked by two masked women carrying heraldic black flags, embarks on a ritual journey across a narrow, sheltered waterway. He takes a shamanic role, invoking spiritual energies to protect the endangered ecological landscape from crude oil spillage in the environmentally devastated oil-rich Niger Delta.
The Niger Delta incorporates Ukpong’s homeland in Southern Nigeria. Once a major producer of palm oil for British colonisers, the territory 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 justice campaigns, with concerns over pollution caused by major spills and flares at the hands of oil and gas industry giants.
Earth Sounds was created for Autograph's 2021 event in collaboration with the artist, Composing a Cause, which used film, speculative soundscapes, performance and conversation to build a visual and sonic relationship with the Niger Delta.
Wilfred Ukpong (PhD) is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher who incorporate a studio-based artistic practice - working between photography, film, video, sculpture, installation, sound, and performance - with connective social engagement, tackling pertinent social issues with community participation and intervention.
His long-term project in the Niger Delta, Blazing Century 1, received a special grant from the Prince Claus Fund Amsterdam and has been exhibited in prestigious institutions among Alliance Française/Mike Adenuga Centre Lagos, Institut français du Nigeria Abuja, FotoFest Biennial 2020/2022 Houston, Pipe Factory Glasgow, MARKK Museum Hamburg, and Welt Museum Vienna.
His short film FUTURE-WORLD (2017) won the Golden City Gates Excellence Award at ITB Berlin in 2018. It was screened at Mash Johannesburg and David Krut Projects Johannesburg/Cape Town and to the Senate of Nigeria to encourage a dialogue about environmental change in the Niger Delta, the artist's place of birth in Southern Nigeria. Ukpong extended his short film into FUTURE-WORLD-EXV (2019), shown in the 2021 Essay Film Festival London, Autograph ABP London, Royal Society of Art London, Welt Museum Vienna and Public Ecology Film Festival Cape Town.
Ukpong received his BA/MA Fine Art Degree – with magna cum laude – from Ecole Supérieure d'Art Lorient, France, and his PhD from Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom. He lives and works out of Oxford (UK), Clermont-Ferrand (France), and Eket (Nigeria).
Follow the artist on Instagram.
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