Still on the matter of my last two posts (please read for context), I had comments on the gestures which meant so much that evening — and actually mean so much to me every day — and that have the power to create alliances, enlightenment and therefore development and progress. Diplomacy is a vocation, a skill, and a whole vibe… and the seers amongst us infuse this into our lives for improved relations.
I will tell the story of the evening from an unusual angle to highlight these sentiments.
Ugoma. Excited to be in Abuja after so long, thrilled at the honor that the upcoming cocktail reception implies, she agonizes about what to wear. She settles on classic comfort with a signature Issey Miyake ensemble but seeks to pay homage to French fashion — so decides that she will accessorize as French as she can — with her lucky pearl earrings by Celine and her favorite evening purse by the quintessential French designer (with whom she shares so much in common) Christian Dior. FYI — Dior was once a gallerist and also obsessed with flowers.
Off she goes to the residence, picked up by the ambassador’s driver, engaging in her best (now) poor conversational French. She is working on that.
She arrives. Greeted by the Gendarmerie — an intimidating man brandishing choice lethal weapons. He exudes a rare blend of control and kindness. She would come back out later, for a chat with the man (as she often does with security guards, bouncers, MOPOL, ‘Mai Guard’ etc — she is drawn to most underdogs) only to discover that he also loves art, has recently fallen in love with a Nigerian woman and will be resigning from his post to start a new life with his new wife. An even more special moment — she wished good for the couple and marvels once again at that Franco-Nigerian “love je ne sais quoi”
Country flags carry mighty emotion at their sight. They buttress identities and ties and can be powerful reminders of what it means to be of a certain nationality. On such stately grounds, and on such an august occasion, Ugoma Ebilah Adegoke of Umudike, was not going to let a photographic documentary moment pass her by — she geekily insists that her picture be taken in the poor night light, beside the flags of France and the E.U (though standing on Nigerian soil, she stands in French territory).
Reveling in the beauty, decor, and delicate culinary treats which all underpin that shared French joy of life — she goes on to enjoy an evening lit by music, salon-style conversation, and good food and wine.
Diplomacy (as earlier stated and to use millennial parlance) is a whole vibe! It bridges gaps, extracts intimacy and fosters powerful connections — just like art.
Ugoma is that daughter of the soil; deeply rooted to her ancestry; passion-led in her work, friendships and loves; international and humanistic in her gaze yet so proudly Nigerian that tattooed Nsibidi symbols adorn her body and she weeps every time she sings the Nigerian national anthem.
For her — art, culture and a life grounded in these, are diplomacy tools — envoys if you will. She will always remember that evening fondly and invites us all to ponder the transformational power of art as diplomacy and diplomacy as art.