“My seven year old self learnt to tell people what I thought they wanted to hear. By the age of eight I’d convinced the other kids that my hair was made of sponge… because being black it couldn’t be made of ‘hair’.”
Through her own personal story and the hair-raising experiences of other women and girls, Mena Fombo’s TEDxBristol talk is a witty, yet compelling and sometimes dark exploration of the objectification of black women. It’s an issue she has spent a lifetime experiencing and exploring, with both a political and creative lens.
Mena is the driving force behind the international campaign “No. You Cannot Touch My Hair” which has attracted contributions from people across the UK and around the world. Over half the respondents said they had their hair touched on a monthly basis by people they’d never met before. 18% said it happened every week. The vast majority described the touching as intrusive, invasive and unwelcome. 90% of those responding identified as female, and the majority were black or of mixed race origin. Some said it felt like being petted in a zoo. Mena says: “We are not animals in zoos – #DONTTOUCH”.
Mena Fombo describes herself as a British Nigerian Bristolian through and through! She is a purposeful coach, facilitator, motivational speaker, consultant and activist with a background working in the arts, the voluntary sector and educational establishments across Europe, the USA, Africa and South Asia.
She is also the founder of The OJiJi Purple Project, a Bristol based non-profit that campaigns for equality, focusing on working with black women and girls through everyday activism, connecting communities and creativity. She is the curator of Bristol’s first Black Girls Convention.
As a confident, black woman, who has overcome a lifetime of adversity and personal experiences of injustice, she has carved out a role for herself as a creative activist, working tirelessly to support the political, social and economic equality of black people and women. She is passionate about social change, the development of people, values-based leadership and creating powerful learning experiences.