I had spent years running from my Nigerian heritage because I wanted to fit in. But over the Easter break, I was fortunate enough to be invited by BBK to their official Homecoming event. For someone who was already embarking on a journey of self-discovery after quitting my job, coming home in December 2017 and April 2018 was something of an epiphany in unearthing a part of me that so many others were undergoing too. So what exactly was this Homecoming?

Homecoming was essentially a five-day event of cultural exchange which featured a two-day pop-up store that exhibited up-and-coming, as well as already established, fashion designers, empowerment talks, and music.

It felt like a boujie West London art scene

The idea was conceptualised by Grace Ladoja – a British born creative director and manager of Skepta, nicknamed ‘the amazing Grace’ – alongside Greatness Dex, the visionary behind “greatness”. As Dex says, “greatness is a lifestyle…it’s a culture,” sitting on the rooftop of the Maison Fahrenheit in the 30-degree heat. “It’s a way of life.”

My schedule was extremely full. With dinner at Nok on the Friday to celebrate Grace’s Birthday after messy first night, I didn’t think I would make it to the pop-up. Lagos had got me on day one!

The first official day of the pop-up kicked the weekend off nicely. It felt like a boujie West London art scene, and visitors were finally able to access local brands, such as Orange Culture, WafflesNCream, and GREY; as well as those international brands that are so hard to purchase due to shipping fees, such as Off White, PATTA etc..

Little did I know I was chatting to a superstar

One guy really caught my eye as I pondered through the room. He was filled with energy and wearing a matching pinstripe shirt and trousers. I thought, “I want what he’s got on!” Little did I know, it was Jimmy Ayeni, the founder of Vivendii – the hottest international brand, featured in Vogue. Naomi Campbell visited their pop-up and they’d teamed up with Off-White to create their football jerseys. Even Franca Sozzani was talking about them before she died. Little did I know I was chatting to a superstar.

Jimmy, Ola and Bai

“I always wear my collection, it’s fire!” says Jimmy in the jam-packed room. “It’s always hot and I want to feel like I’m wearing my Pj’s. That’s why I created it”. But it wasn’t just Jimmy who started it alone: “I started it with my childhood friends Ola and Anthony and we wanted to show the world our way of living. Vivendii means our way of living in Latin,” he says.

Those words really resonated in my mind. In my 20-odd years living, I had never encountered a time where being from Nigeria was cool. This was a place that my British friends would literally mock me about coming from, and now it was on the map alongside Miami and London.

Seeing this side of Nigeria really made me emotional

With Arise fashion week taking place alongside Homecoming, the pop-up was bringing people together from all cultures. Jimmy, like many people I have met, splits his time from London to Lagos; others were jet-setting from LA, Paris, New York, and Amsterdam – all with a common interest, in music, fashion, art, and creativity. Irene Agbontaen even hosted Lagos’ very first TTYA talks a panel session led by the biggest names in fashion, music, and culture for women.

Irene and kids

Seeing this side of Nigeria really made me emotional. I already knew it had it in it but I hadn’t really understood the full extent until after the weekend. The football tournament was too fun, then going from club to club. From Quillox, to Pablo, to Club 57, I did not know where I was half the time, I just knew I was having a real good time.

By day three, I was dead. A couple people went to the pop-up but for me and a friend, we decided to have a Fela day. Knowing that Femi Kuti would be performing at his father’s shrine later on in the evening, Kemi and I decided we were going do all things Fela. What a day it was. We watched the theatre production Fela! & The Kalakuta Queens at Terra Kulture Arena, and the production was beautiful. It was filled with classic Fela sing-alongs, blended with modern afrobeats, and the cast even interacted with the audience. We even had our picture taken! The night took us to the shrine and a more chilled out evening of food at Rufus and Bees (and when I say evening, I mean 1 am – yes, that’s when people eat).

DJ at the pop-up

Monday was the day of the music and we were all excited and ready to dance. But before that, this was our opportunity to really catch the essence of Lagos: Tarkwa beach!

I had never been there before and as we jumped on the boat and I saw us leave the Island for the beach, I couldn’t help but pinch myself and think, “Wow! Is this really where I’m from?” Even if there was heaps of rubbish dumped at the side…

Funnily enough, this was the day when I found the most peace. I had discovered on the first night that one of the attendants (who I knew from uni days) was related to me; I had really gotten to know some of the locals at the beach; I had haggled my way down from spending about £50 to £5; and, the food was amazing – not forgetting the local beer “Origin”.

I had spent years running from my Nigerian heritage because I wanted to fit in

Earlier on in the week, I had mentioned to Grace that I still didn’t know who I was and that’s why this was important to me. She gave me a piece of advice and it was the best piece of advice I could have ever received: “Before you can truly do what you are here to do, you need to know who you are first. It took me 5 years to figure that out…5 years. Now, I wake up every day, I’ll speak to Alex, and I know who I am and that’s what you need to do”.

I had spent years running from my Nigerian heritage because I wanted to fit in. I had worn weaves because I didn’t want to be different. I had adopted a very British way of life, foregoing who I truly was in order to be seen as British…but, I was British…but I was also Nigerian – and that was the blessing. I was among people who all looked like me.

Inside Fela

There were so many unforgettable moments on the trip and the music was something to round it off. Speaking to Ronke from BWL, Grace highlighted the fact that, “the music export over the last few years has been phenomenal but what we wanted to do with the Homecoming show was to bring in international acts such as Skepta, JHUS, Not3s and have them share the stage with local legends such as Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Olamide. This creates a cultural fusion with no hierarchy and this weekend was a testament to what can happen when we tell our own stories and shape our own narratives through music, fashion, and sport,” she added.

We tell our own stories and shape our own narratives through music, fashion, and sport

The whole experience was rather surreal. I had been in the backstage area mingling with international superstars like John Boyega and Nigerian household names like Runtown, and even chatted to Naomi Campbell, which was great (no really, really quite incredible). But the real celebrities for me were the people I met along the way. Whether it was Soji the artist I met on the beach, the excited teenagers who had shown up for Skepta, or even the dreamcatchers who showed you, your dreams really can come true…these people were really trying hard to change the narrative of Nigeria. And for me, I really felt as if I discovered a part of myself (even if it was bargaining skills). At last, I had a sense of not feeling like a complete anomaly in a city.