My name is Mena Odu. I have been (amongst other things): a student (first of lots of things, then fewer things, then of English and Comparative Literature and Political Science), an audiobook/digital publishing intern, an editor for a business school’s research unit, and a web editor/designer/manager. Now I frequent places with WiFi and coffee to write things and plan adventures, the most recent of which is this blog.
I’ve always been obsessed with two things: reading and making. Childhood is usually the place we reference when trying to explain why we like or do certain things – and so, to mine: my earliest memory is of reading a Richard Scarry book (there is one earlier memory I vaguely have of waiting with my older sisters while my family runs late for church, but that’s not useful for our purposes). Books were a huge part of my childhood. My dad was big on my sisters and I reading (and listening to Snoop Dogg but again, a story for another time) and actively encouraged our habit. From Richard Scarry I graduated to Enid Blyton books (mostly stolen from my older sisters’ rooms when they were away at boarding school), my dad’s newspapers, and air freshener labels. Now I read thick books by dead people, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s tweets, and everything in between.
My love for making had a less precocious start: when I was nine years old, my family moved from warm, sunny Nigeria to the suburbs of England. Latent culture shock can perhaps explain the fascination with textiles I quickly developed: I learned to embroider at school and gifted all of my creations to my ever-enthusiastic mother, who also taught me to crochet and let me play with her cake decorating tools and “encouraged” (read: coerced) mine and my sister’s green fingers by sending us out to the front of the house to water flowers and drown slugs.
Until secondary school, words for me were largely things I received passively, while things like pictures and objects were ones I actively made (and I have the family holiday photographs with finger close-ups to prove it) – but neither held any deeper significance beyond the immediate pleasure they granted or the little factoids I stored away in my head for future reference. It wasn’t until I was about 13 or 14, when English teachers began sending my classmates and I out to find answers to questions not addressed on the whiteboard or in our textbooks, that I began to consider the power of words. Around this same time, I also stepped into a photography darkroom for the first time and watched breathlessly as a white piece of paper rocked gently in a tray of developer revealed a friend, shaded in grey and pretending to blow a trumpet, as I had captured her a few days earlier, asking me to also consider the power in pictures and their making.
It took a while for me to recognise how much these early experiences have shaped how I understand and navigate my world. Professionally, this has led me to communication and design, publishing and nonprofit education, photography and writing. This blog is a space for me to have fun with my passions and to continue to explore the questions they raise for me – like “Why does a photo essay move me to donate money to a charitable cause?” or “What is it about a runway look that sparks a story?”. There’ll be a bit of everything – fashion, politics, literature, dance, architecture – and I hope you’ll enjoy this adventure with me!