Ofem Ubi is a multidisciplinary artist from Nigeria who uses poetry, photography and film to drive conversations and preserve memories. Shortlisted and published in the Deep Dreams Anthology of the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (2018), he was also internationally published in the first volume of the INKWELL Journal. His poetry film; Velvet, was selected for the Fringe of Color film festival (2021) meanwhile his film Southpaw was showcased in the inaugural National Arts in Health Week, Nigeria.
Ofem joins us this August after receiving the inaugural G.A.S. Fellowship Award. We asked him to tell us more about his practice and how he hopes the opportunity might shape future creative projects.
What is the current focus of your creative practice?
My creative practice is laid visible through poetry, photography and film. Often, the poems are infused into these films as voiceovers that embody the narrative and direction of the moving images. My photographs are created from the film sets in the most economic way possible to ensure that I can maximise my resources.
I’m currently focused on creating work that is more expansive and finding ways of giving each art form room to breathe as a stand-alone medium that's able to carry along the intent of the artist without one art form scaffolding on from another.
Some of the questions I often ask myself are; How is it possible to shred these art forms as single entities but also be able to assemble them into one wholesome piece that supports better storytelling? Is it possible for the poetry in my film work to become more than a voiceover and instead evolve into an instrument of intra-personal communication or dialogue between characters? Are the photographs a mere reportage of the subject matter or a critical tool to further dissect and analyse the intricacies of the project? How feasible/tangible are these ambitions, looking at little to no funding and how sustainable are they?
I hope to find practical answers to these questions through the projects that will be formed during my residency at G.A.S.
'Bovi', Ofem Ubi
What drew you to apply for this residency and how do you think it will inform your wider practice?
A writer friend of mine shared this opportunity with me, according to him, I was first in mind once he saw the open call. After watching the inaugural opening of the residency in Lagos and reading up about it, I decided to give it a shot.
I was also drawn by the inclusive nature of the open call and the fact that it was open to all creative disciplines, giving artists the ability to reflect and just work, to fail and try again taking away the imminent pressure of survival. I knew it was something I needed that would be of immense help and an eye-opener to new windows of inspiration away from my usual routine.
There’s a wide range of support and resources afforded to residents. With adequate usage of these support systems, I believe I will be able to learn more, find new and more evocative ways of presenting themes through my work, and be able to implement them in the projects afterwards.
'Birthplace', Ofem Ubi
Can you give us an insight into how you hope to use the opportunity?
I hope to broaden the scope and potential of all the art forms I engage with through my practice. I hope to make connections that I ordinarily wouldn’t have the platform to make through the help of the Foundation. I hope to use this opportunity to produce work that would have more pulse than previous efforts as a result of the new environment I'll be exposed to.
For more information about Ofem and his practice follow him on Instagram (@ofem.ubi).
Title image: Still from Sweet Potato, a film by Ofem Ubi. Shot by Uche Nelson Oriaku
All images courtesy of the artist.