Online Gallery

Afrofuturism, Mysticism and Climate Justice

Wilfred Ukpong's visual meditations on the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta

Wilfred Ukpong is an interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, researcher, and activist. A long-term collaborator with Autograph, we are proud to present this online image gallery of Ukpong’s work, raising urgent questions around environmental degradation, to coincide with the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP26.

We're sharing work from four of Ukpong’s recent – and interrelated – bodies of work, all set in the Niger Delta, which 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.

Exploring aspects of Afrofuturism and mysticism, Ukpong combines compelling and poetic reflections on the current crisis of environmental degradation and exploitation in the Niger Delta. Drawing on his historical and personal archives, ecology politics and indigenous environmentalism, these meditations on the crisis demonstrate how artmaking can be used as a tool for social empowerment and to challenge colonial narratives.

BC1-ND-FC: By And by, I Will Carry This Burden of Hope, Till the Laments of my Child is Heard #1, 2017

"Exploring the concept of Afrofuturism through my work is a way of envisioning a society free from social bondages and political oppression. It deals with evaluating the past to create better conditions for the present and future generations in the Niger Delta."⁠

BC1-CRUDELAND: The Geogami's Throne, 2020

⁠"I am drawn to the art of performance and visual storytelling that plays on ecology politics, indigenous environmentalism and reflections on colonial histories and contemporary experiences."⁠⁠

FUTURE - WORLD - EXV (film trailer), 2019

FUTURE-WORLD-EXV is set in a speculative future, which follows an oilman who becomes torn between pursuing his industrial duties and haunting visions of the escalating environmental crisis. He finds his fate in the hands of a colony of indigenous people who live in a water environment and worship a sea goddess.

Over the course of 16 minutes, FUTURE-WORLD-EXV explores and re-imagines the art of filmmaking as an extended practice with a social focus. The film unfolds a poetic and fragmented dreamscape narrative, tied together with text, original musical scores, and interlays of archival footage in the absence of dialogue.

Read More

BC1-ND-FC: Are My Dreams too Bold for the Carbon Skin I Bear #1, 2017

⁠"The work, for me, is a catalyst for constructive debate that can encourage positive actions through alternative narratives - with visual metaphors and fantasies - used to discuss serious and troubling issues grounded in heavy-weight political demographics."

BC1-ND-FC: The Advent of the Visionaries - A Screen to Behold, 2017

"In my artist-activist stance, I am interested in deconstructing Eurocentric power structures and disrupting colonial archives to reconstruct a sense of Africanness that is empowered."

FUTURE - WORLD - EXV: Dream Chasers on a Floater, 2017

"This project also serves as a blueprint to guide local, socially engaged oil-producing communities in the Delta to challenge existing oppressive structures ... as a tool to imagine better futures with ample possibilities for a just existence that embraces cultural evolution, technological advancement and a sustainable ecosystem."

BC1-ND-FC: Alas, Our Thirst Lumbers to the Sea for Our Saline Zone is Barren with Crude #3, 2017

"I am interested in taking a specific and local approach in my work, by creating a narrative bound to the Niger Delta yet set within a global framework."⁠⁠ ⁠

FUTURE - WORLD – EXV: Heralding and Reclamation of the Red Space, 2017

"My work embraces ideas of mythic and speculative dimensions. It explores the concept and aesthetics of Afrofuturism – the cultural movement that conjures otherworldly visions out of everyday Black/African experience."

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

"It’s important to showcase the ways in which artistic, cultural, and technological progress in the African continent are reimagining perspectives on environmental crises, social injustice, race, gender, identity, and the body in the 21st century ... to play on a larger context of work that takes traditions, local symbolism and myths from the past, to speculate on the future as a way of informing our actions in the present."

BC1-ND-FC: Laying Down Our Burdens at the Sea Side, 2016

BC1-ND-FC: At the Left Side of the Delta, I Stand Tall to Hail Your Grand Entry, 2017

Earth Sounds [film still], 2021

Earth Sounds is a 30 minute long performance-based film work, produced in 2021 with support from Autograph, to coincide with Composing A Cause, an event in collaboration with Wilfred Ukpong and Blazing Century Studios.


Earth Sounds [film], 2021

In this performance film, Ukpong, flanked by two masked women carrying heraldic black flags, embarks on a ritual journey across a narrow, sheltered waterway. The artist 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, his homeland in Southern Nigeria.

Earth Sounds [film still], 2021

"The performance film considers the concepts of object-oriented philosophy, new materialism, and African sensibility towards mysticism and ritual objects. In testing the scope of my research through a series of performative interventions, these mediated objects/bodies are forced to collide with my environment while contrasting different forms of power and authority."

Earth Sounds [film still], 2021

Earth Sounds consists of a compelling visual narrative and affecting sonic renditions, incorporating speculative soundscape, music, chants, incantations, and performance objects. Ukpong utilizes an Afro-futurist lens and traditional knowledge from the Global South in a bid to save us from the perils of our time.

Earth Sounds [film still], 2021

"I strongly believe that we all have responsibility for the world we inhabit. In us we possess the ability to dream of viable ways in which we can act as ‘agents of change’. Together we can dream of building and shaping a sustainable economic and social system that is embedded in an inclusive framework capable of generating and maintaining the conditions of harmonious coexistence against the backdrop of this dreadful vision of dissonance that beholds our future world."⁠

about the artist

Wilfred Ukpong

is an interdisciplinary artist who incorporates a studio-based artistic practice 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 and has been exhibited in international group shows in London, Lorient and The Hague. His film Future World won the Golden City Gates Excellence Award at ITB Berlin in 2018. The film has also been screened at Mash Johannesburg and David Krut Projects, as well as to the Senate of Nigeria in order to encourage a dialogue about environmental change in the Niger Delta. Ukpong is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford Brookes University, and he received his BA and Master’s Degree from Ecole Supérieure d’Art Lorient, France.

Follow the artist on Instagram.


Can you spare a few moments? Autograph is carrying out a survey to better understand who our digital audiences are. The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. Anything you tell us will be kept confidential, is anonymous and will only be used for research purposes.

The information you provide will be held by Autograph and The Audience Agency, who are running the survey on our behalf. In compliance with GDPR, your data will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes it was given.

You can take the survey here. Thank you!

Banner image: Wilfred Ukpong, Future - World - EXV: Dream Chasers on a Floater [detail], 2017 © and courtesy the artist

Image gallery: all images © and courtesy of Wilfred Ukpong and Blazing Century Studios

Discover more images: 1) Heather McDonough, Cliff's Mother [detail], from the series RePose. 01. 2) Wilfred Ukpong, At the Centre of the Delta, I Come Settled to Bear Your Grand Entry, 2017 © and courtesy of the artist. 3) David Uzochukwu, Rising [detail], from Mare Monstrum / Drown In My Magic, 2019 © and courtesy of the artist and Galerie Number 8.