Environmental Art, Education and Energy: Renowned Multidisciplinarian Wilfred Ukpong

Wilfred Ukpong began studying the sciences, like his brothers but came across a dangerous idea in his second year of university: Robert Thomson’s book Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy. The book identified how the Yoruba, Kongo and Ejagham civilisations are reflected in the art and metaphysical practices of the African Diaspora.

Subsequently Ukpong left university to pursue art and has built a strong career under a holistic approach to the arts incorporating education and the environment into his practice.

Working on a dystopian Afro-futurist film set along the Niger Delta for seven years, Ukpong, trains and funds people from the rural community to work on his film and become artists in their own right. His stars in futurist gear are fishermen in another day, his set builders are ordinary people. The sense of creation and achievement has been an empowering presence in the area devastated by pollution and conflict.

Ukpong’s futurist feature film Spectre-(X) pinpoints how developing nations struggle with related health and environmental issues that are the consequence of first world energy abuse. Ukpong works closely with people directly affected by these struggles. His time spent in rural communities raises eyebrows from individuals who believe art is in a gallery, yet Ukpong is a serious artist and a recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus grant for cultural development for his art education interventions along the Niger Delta.

Currently based in Oxford and Paris, Ukpong’s work is in Lagos, the heart from where his inspiration pulses. Facing criticism in the European art world for not holding a fine art degree, Ukpong studied a Masters in Fine Art (MFA) at Ecole Supérieure d’Art Lorient in 2008. Ukpong graduated from the four-year degree within two years magna cum laude and a lecturing post. This was a return to his role as an educator on the European continent.

On Saturday 29 July Wilfred Ukpong visited the David Krut Projects Archive space to discuss how he and David Krut Projects can pursue a collaborative venture.