Ugoma Adegoke is the Managing Director and co-founder of Lifehouse, an art and fashion outfit. With multiple degrees in Economics, Mrs Adegoke reveals that her passion for arts and culture made her venture into setting up her firm, which she runs with her husband. She lamented that starting has been more than tough, adding that it has been agonising, especially this year.
She said most Nigerians don’t really believe and value art, saying that they see art as non-lucrative, which she described as a misconception.
“All that is required is being consistent in whatever one does. I believe that consistency, delivered with quality, brings about excellence,” she said.
The artist believes that anything one does or venture into must be done well so that he or she will be recognised on the long run.
She also expressed the belief that having passion for what one does makes one’s career path easier, adding, “In my personal experience, I have been driven by the passion I have for arts and eventually, it is converting into something that is attractive and popular. Sponsors now want to be associated with me and are willing to pay for their association with me. In other words, art now pays me. Once you do something in an excellent way, then money will find you but I don’t do this because of money.”
Talking about her firm’s annual arts and film festival, which will be the sixth in the series this year, she said that it has been tough and this year’s festival has been agonising due to the economic downturn, which has made people to cut down on their interests. She explained that it was not as if their interest in arts had gone, but people feel they needed to concentrate on other things they considered more serious to them.
“However, if you are very sure about the reason behind your endeavour, you are ready to manage during the tough times. It means that your goals would always drive you through the tough times,” she added.
…We have a very interesting history of marrying outside our tribe. My sister is married to a non-Igbo. My mother’s two sisters are married to Yoruba men
Revealing the challenges about her job and career, she said that she had wanted to give up so many times, “but as human beings, we have our up and down periods. No matter the circumstances, we should just forge ahead. There are days when I have cried because everything is just not adding up. “Nonetheless, quitting has never been an option. The work I do involves promoting our art and culture and I am also inspiring people. So, I cannot quit. I cannot give up on all the people that look forward to the festival every year. We have so many testimonials annually during the festival. I cannot give up because if I do it, those people would not have anywhere to go. It means I have killed hope and it is not an option. The impact of what we do is sometimes financial, but most importantly social.” Speaking about her products and services, especially her paintings and collections generally, she disclosed that she tries to educate people as a curator to make them understand that art is not only meant to be bought.
“Unfortunately, there are no viewing spaces here in Nigeria the way we have them abroad, even in the whole world, there are only a few people who can afford to buy expensive arts and that is a fact.
“Most times, people would only see the painting, but they would never own it and there is nothing wrong with that. It feels good to be able to see it, because the feeling I get when I do that is very impactful and personal. It is great if I can afford it and look at it every day, but even if I cannot take it home, I should be able to go to a museum and look at it.
“Another thing about art paintings is that so many things are considered it to be expensive, and I say it is because it is not just a piece of painting, but an expression, that is kind of spiritual that nobody can explain. It is not just an ordinary piece. If you are a fan of boxing and Muhammad Ali’s gloves are to be auctioned at £200,000, you would you be surprised that one or two Nigerians would buy, people tend to buy what is very attractive to them,” she said.
The Igbo-born designer said she had worked at a financial investment firm and she knew and felt she was not where she wanted to be, which made her to eventually quit her job. With her bosses supporting her, the decision did not quite go down well with her father, who wanted her to be an economist.
“But that later changed when one day he was reading a magazine where I was featured and he was with his friends. I walked into the room and he told his friends that I am his daughter, a former economist but now a very successful designer and art curator, who he was so proud of,” she said.
Mrs Adegoke is married to Dayo Adegoke, with whom she co-owns and runs Lifehouse. She said her work brought her and her husband together, coupled with the fact that they started the outfit as friends, who are also both lovers of music, culture, and arts before they got married.
Regarding her inter-tribal marriage, Adegoke said she has no issues with that, adding, “My parents-inlaw are lovely people. They are academics who have a much higher level of sophistication. On my side, we have a very interesting history of marrying outside our tribe. My sister is married to a non-Igbo. My mother’s two sisters are married to Yoruba men. My father is extremely liberal and he speaks the three major Nigerian languages. He does not understand why you would not want to marry a person because of his ethnicity. We are both lucky to have grown up in an environment where our parents focus on the person’s character.”
Her establishment, which is family owned and located in Victoria Island, Lagos, has hosted great musicians, authors, artists, lively events and has given the Nigerian culture a platform from which to be seen and heard.
Asides arts and fashion, Adegoke also runs a lifestyle haven that deals in fitness, dieting and nutrition.