Ugoma Adegoke trained as an economist and corporate finance professional but is today, a creative entrepreneur, gallerist and foremost multi-arts curator. A tireless community builder, arts advocate, passionate art collector and taste-maker, she is the founding director and Chief Curator of Bloom Art, Lagos.
In 2014, she originated an important art repatriation transaction that saw significant pieces of 1980s modernist Nigerian art worth over N70million ($400,000) returned to Nigeria. Ugoma has successfully closed several private secondary market transactions, placing invaluable contemporary artworks in the collections of some of the continent’s greatest collectors- works by Ben Enwonwu, Ben Osawe, Obiora Udechukwu, Yusuf Grillo, Gani Odutokun, El Anatsui, Uzo Egonu, Marcia Kure, Ndidi Dike, Muraina Oyelami amongst others.
Founder and artistic director of the Lights, Camera, Africa!!! Film Festival which has emerged as the most prominent public film festival celebrating the best of African and independent cinema and filmic art in Nigeria today, the festival turned eight last month and Ugoma is still pushing the envelope on the African cultural experience and its receivership.
In this interview, she talks about the festival, Nigerian art and why our films do not do as well as they should internationally.
You just finished this year’s edition of Lights, Africa! Film Festival, how would you rate this edition?
This year’s edition was epic! It heralded many firsts for us, a new venue, new website, a powerful and timely theme and a renewed and energised audience engagement. It also saw the return of our educational and industry capacity building segment.
This year was the eighth edition, what did you learn over the years that made this edition stand out?
I have learned that there is no such thing as ‘Nigerians don’t enjoy or want alternative art.’
Over the years, my team and I have been dogged about our offering and our unique and well-researched target audience and have continued to focus on them.
This year for me wasn’t so much different as it was proof that our creative direction and the essence of the festival are sound, in demand and very much appreciated by a niche and fast-growing audience.
Furthermore like with all creative and economic pursuits, I have learned to stay connected to my passion and raison d’etre and to keep at it.
How well are Nigeria and Africa’s art as a whole received internationally now and would you say you have contributed to its success?
Nigerian arts and film are on a global map and well received and respected, thanks to the phenomenon that is Nollywood.
However, there are so many other prisms beyond, before and, we now see after Nollywood, and this is all very exciting.
Just like with various authentic and homegrown genres of our music, our literature and our art, our film outputs are receiving the accolades and engagements that they deserve.
What is also great is that they are also receiving the constructive criticisms that they also deserve, inspiring discourse, debate and development and as a result of all these synergies, we are indeed all living witnesses to a raised bar for Nigerian cinema and Lights Camera Africa Film Festival most certainly has contributed and in many ways spurred this ‘bar raise’ as has always been our mission from inception.
Wearing so many hats at the same time, how are you able to keep everything running smoothly?
I employ deep breaths, positive energy surrounding me always, meditation, strict time management, honesty, vulnerability, passion, focus, fluidity, emotional awareness and delegation. Also by listening to my heart and body and stopping when I need to and sprinting when I also need to.
You have been a part of the successful sale of several valuable African contemporary artworks, what would you tell emerging artistes?
Yes, I have been and I feel really lucky because I ascribe those events to serendipity as well as my knowledge and competencies.
I would tell emerging artistes a few things, but in a nutshell, it would be the following: first, decide why you are making art.
Secondly, decide what truth of yours you are telling with the art.
Third, decide if you are doing that which you know to be your calling and finally, quit now if you do not know the answer to one or all of the three positions I just described.
As one well vested in the creative industry, why are Nigerian films not doing well as they should internationally?
I would imagine that the reason is simple; once stories can travel and people abroad can connect with local narratives in visually poetic ways, then they will be closer to higher demand.
I also believe very much in the saying ‘charity begins at home’, which for me subtly posits that the demand for Nigerian cinema and the infrastructure to support this demand and the innovation to enable this infrastructure must begin locally (and then regional and global connections can be built on the success of the local space.
We have the population, the creativity and the potential to create one of the greatest internally dynamic economies (for cinema and pretty much anything one can think of producing) on the continent and in the world.
You are passionate about education and young people. Tell us some of the things and opportunities you have been able to afford young ones?
Through the annual film festival’s volunteer scheme, over 200 young people have been engaged, trained and inspired over the last 8 years.
Similarly in the last decade, I have held countless knowledge sessions (under the auspices of my private arts studio), including talks, readings and workshops, which actively include young creatives, giving them complimentary access.
Finally as a matter of my personal and professional philosophy, I practice an active mentorship and open consultation policy with several young creatives, many who come referred by a third party
If you had the opportunity to influence/change something, what would that be?
I do have the opportunity and I am doing just that. I am influencing enhanced perspectives of ourselves, our identity and our culture through the arts and arts engagement.
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I passionately love to do and also consider my duty to do.
What is your last word for young, female creatives that look up to you?
My advice is for female creatives as well as female professionals and entrepreneurs alike.
Stay gracious. Stay humble. Stay soft and humane. Set boundaries. Celebrate your femininity and use it for good. Stay kind to yourself and to others.
Be your sister’s keeper. Collaborate. Master your offering. Master your market. Hydrate. Sleep and most importantly, take no prisoners.