Ugoma Adegoke is the convener of the annual woman-fest, WomanRising. In its 7th year this April, Woman Rising has become a hit on the annual culture calendar as the “it” event that celebrates women who aspire and inspire as well as the men who love them. This year’s event is a two-day celebration which ends on Sunday, April 9. In this interview, Ugoma speaks about WomanRising, what inspired it, the journey so far and what to look forward to.
How has the journey been?
It’s been exciting, tough, trying and educational all at the same time.
Why WomanRising? What does it mean to you as a person and a brand?
WomanRising began as a personal call to action to myself. I was going through a tough time following the tragic death of my many friends in the June 3 – Dana crash and the forced closure of my work and engagement space which many people lovingly knew as The Life House. WomanRising was a call to self to wake up and shake up the lethargic funk that I was slipping into in 2012. WomanRising means the same thing to me as a person and as brand and today, it now means the same thing also to almost 2,000 women who have interacted with WomanRising since its rebirth in 2013. WomanRising is about celebrating excellence and creativity, highlighting the power of enabling and networking and buttressing the importance of the role of the ‘woman’ in pretty much every sphere of life. My professional focus is, of course, the arts and the creative sector, however, WomanRising is a unique platform where many other worlds (politics, philanthropy, business, civil society, luxury etc) all converge with the creative arts.
How has it impacted women?
Every year women get lifted (literally and metaphorically). Women are invited to talk, laugh, sing, dance, cry and get a little tipsy too. Women are invited to enjoy one another, discover similarities and collaborative potential. Women are the focus and our platform ensures that, at least once a year, women get to blow their horns to each other and by each other. These characteristics all equate to upliftment and inspiration which I believe are the most important ingredients for effective impact.
Men participate, why?
Because men are the other side of the coin. Men are our fathers, brothers, husbands, friends and employers and they are very important. I believe in balance and I am very passionate about ensuring balanced narratives. My mantra is that we all need to pursue our individual strengths and competencies and celebrate our female self…but I also know that we need each other – men and women alike. Men have certain competencies and virtues which complement the virtues of women and when those are combined in harmony, we see effective, balanced progress in our work, homes, communities and country at large. Men are important too and from the onset of WomanRising, I have always interspersed the female voice with the male voice.
What are the star attractions this year?
WomanRising focuses on new and emerging talent and for us, the undiscovered diamonds in the rough to whom we provide performance platforms are always the stars. This year I am proud to present some fascinating new and not-so-new faces and voices. You can look forward to hearing and experience a host of wonderful Nigerian female artistes such as Kaliné, Evelle, Amaka, Sheillah, Debbie, Adunni Nefertiti as well as our international guest performer Angela Paz Alhucema from Chile.
Are you a feminist?
Yes, I am as far as I am interested and passionate in any impactful activity that promotes and protects women’s rights, interests, and well-being. I identify myself much more as a humanist, a person who promotes the idea of our shared humanity and catalysing human potential and wellbeing.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being honest with self and kind to self….and by default doing same to others.
You are a film enthusiast, art afficionado, fashion designer and woman issues driver, who exactly is Ugoma Adegoke?
Ugoma Adegoke is a lover, connoisseur, and advocate for beauty, culture, expression and humanity. Ugoma is interested in these individual tenets as they concern Nigerian and African realities and her work is solely dedicated to interacting and fusing these tenets together.
A few female artistes have flexed their wings on the WR stage like Ruby, Ranti, Simi, Temi Dollface, and a host of others. How does it feel providing a platform for women?
It is the most satisfying feeling in the world to breathe additional life into ideas and to enable their progress and sometimes even their completion. I am privileged to be able to have the sort of eyes and ears I have, which allow me to immediately tune into the objectives and passions of artists from various disciplines. I am even more honoured to be entrusted with the visions and expressions of these artists – I take this very seriously and I protect them with all of my resources. Platforms like WomanRising as well as Bloom Art and Lights Camera Africa Film Festival (my visual arts and film projects) ensure that I can add value to the artists and audiences who interact with these projects. I consider myself a big sister to some of my younger sisters as I have been and continue to be a baby sister to many big sisters of mine. It is a continuum of service and support and it never ends. It must never end. I am inspired by many great women who were and are benevolent in spirit – these women rise and climb and they ensure that they send the proverbial ladder down to enable others to climb – these women are their sisters’ keepers. That’s the woman I want to be. A woman of grace who believes in abundance and shares this freely, because she knows that the well never runs dry for the truly benevolent. This spirit, in turn, will ensure that assistance and value-add don’t just cover other women, but it covers the men too…the whole of humanity. You see what I mean – we are back to that special notion – humanity. This is my raison d’etre.
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