Grace Ladoja Says Education Will Underpin Africa's Next Wave of Creative Greatness

Spotlight on the inspirational force behind Lagos' Homecoming Festival

Grace Ladoja at the Olin Africa Business Forum (2019)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

Meet Grace Ladoja
A born-and-bred Londoner of Nigerian descent, Grace Ladoja is an inspirational force who is empowering a new generation of creatives through the annual Homecoming Festival in Lagos. The three-day cultural exchange brings young African creatives and creativity back to Africa. With her personal interest in supporting young talent, Ladoja has created a community that unites through creativity and collectively shares the vision to promote Nigerian music, fashion, sport and art.

Grace Ladoja receives an MBE from the Prince of Wales (2018)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

Ladoja is a cultural connector, filmmaker, manager, curator and cultural consultant to brands and institutions around the world. She has helped propel the career of grime musician Skepta, taking the genre to new global heights, for which she was awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by the Queen in 2018 for services to music. She also received the Rising Star Award for Women in Music in 2017.

Homecoming 2019 (Easter Weekend, 2019)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

Workshop - Homecoming 2018 (Easter Weekend, 2018) by HomecomingHomecoming

What lead you to start the festival and what does 'homecoming' mean to you?
I am British-born Nigerian. My late mother moved to London in 1985 as an asylum seeker — she never made it back to her home country. In 2013 I visited Nigeria for the first time, where I connected with my identity, family, and most importantly with Nigeria itself. At the time, a critical observation that I took away was that immigrant parents often relocate in the hope that their children will one day move back to Nigeria to contribute to the future of their home cities. In April 2018 this led me to found a movement called Homecoming - launching a three day festival in Lagos to ignite a celebration of cultural heritage and creative exchange, through the lens of music, fashion, sport and art.

Lagos skate style (2019) by @deeds_artOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

Can you elaborate on the idea and importance of the cultural exchange between Nigeria and the UK?
My career has evolved around creating frameworks outside of the mainstream with direct links to culture and community. I believe that when likeminded brands and artists work together they can build long term relationships that create cultural movements. This belief is why I received my MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for outstanding services to music.

Lagos from above (2019)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

With this in mind, what motivates you?
When I first started working with Skepta, we shared a vision to re-introduce contemporary British culture to the world. The importance of sharing our Nigerian roots and bringing that into our work and future was apparent to us at the time, and this vision of cultural exchange is likewise what we aim to do for local Nigerians through Homecoming. Creatively the time is right: the music of Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, has a huge presence in UK musical genres. Now more than ever African-inspired music has become the sound of the streets, not just in the UK, but globally.

Artwork at Rele Art Gallery (2019)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

Nigeria, and Lagos in particular, has the past few years experienced global interest for being a hotbed for creativity. What makes it so exciting?
With Nigeria being one of the youngest nations in Africa, I see the opportunity to galvanise the incredible creativity of this young generation and share it with the world. My goal is to further their work and worldview, offering the tools, resources and education to compete on the global stage.

Homecoming is simply one moment in a vast hotbed of creative activity in Lagos. Young artists, designers and brands in Nigeria and across Africa are finally finding acclaim at an international level. The creativity was always there but now they increasingly have the tools and channels at their disposal to take their vision to the world (and platforms like Homecoming are here to help). This is what makes the continent so exciting right now.

Skateboarder (2019)Original Source: Homecoming Festival

Homecoming is now in its third year – what keeps you motivated to organize the annual festival?
From Skepta to Supreme, Nike to Levi’s, I have helped build strong relationships between artists, brands, and youth throughout my career. Through mentoring young entrepreneurs and helping build industry infrastructure, we can sustain business development in Lagos, from the grassroots up. By making introductions and fostering relationships that nurture young, creative business people in Lagos, these brands can interact and grow with their global counterparts.

Homecoming aims to work with young and upcoming businesses in every aspect of this project: from the tech company designing the app, the chauffeur company taking care of the artists, to the hotelier that will host our party in order to help them expand and grow their businesses. This is only the start — this project is for a lifetime.

Sho Madjozi and dancers (2019) by @deeds_artOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

You have been praised, both in Nigeria and the UK, for being a powerhouse in an industry which predominantly is lead by men. What advice would you give girls starting out in the creative industry today?
In Nigeria women are often not seen as the equals of their male counterparts. It is my vision to inspire, empower, and enable women from Lagos to London and beyond. This starts by leading by example, which is why Homecoming focuses on furthering this agenda — whether on the playing field or in the creative sector.

I am in a privileged position to help motivate and inspire other women; my own contributions to the industry were recognised with the Rising Star Award for Women in Music in 2017 and I believe this accolade is something I can leverage in order to progress conversations, or create action, both in the music industry and further afield.

Tarkwa Bay - Homecoming 2018 (Easter Weekend, 2018) by HomecomingHomecoming

Is there a particular element of Homecoming that you would like to develop further in the future?
Education is crucial to sustaining creative development in Nigeria. Homecoming’s goal is to eventually make this open-source, creating a free, online resource for aspirational young people looking to achieve their goals, or find inspiration from those who have done so already.

Whilst each Homecoming festival programme to date has included educational elements (talks, masterclasses, workshops and more), this is still the real growth goal for us – it really underpins our mission.

Credits: Story

Founded in 2017, Homecoming is an annual festival of cultural exchange between Africa and the world. Held in Lagos, Nigeria, Homecoming puts a spotlight on African talent – from its up and comers to its biggest stars in Music, Fashion, Art, and Culture. Beyond the annual festival moment, Homecoming focuses its efforts on uniting a global community of musicians, artists, designers and creatives, through collaborations and partnerships between these trailblazers and international brands, institutions and thought leaders.

Find out more via our website, Instagram and YouTube Channel.

Homecoming thanks all the artists, musicians, designers and creatives involved in making the festival happen!

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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