21-year-old Eno Mfon has graduated with a degree in English and theatre studies from the University of Bristol after a lecturer told her there was ‘no space’ for black students on a theatre course. What’s more, the said lecturer has had to pay to watch Eno’s play on stage.
Eno took to her Facebook page to write about the incident alongside a picture of herself in graduation robes. She wrote:
‘When you’re the only black kid on your course and one of the head lecturers tells you there’s no space for black theatre makers on the curriculum so you spend three years learning about Chekhov and Carol Ann Duffy but then realise that you can write your own stuff for lil black girls and so you do that, and sell out the Bristol Old Vic and the lecturer that told you there’s no space for you, pays to watch you perform.’
Eno’s play, Check The Label was so successful it ran for three nights at the Bristol Old Vic in late February.
The play is described as a ‘deeply intimate piece based on Eno’s own experience of growing up in dark skin, told through poetry, childhood games and music – everything from nursery rhymes to Dizzee Rascal’.
Eno said she initially challenged the lecturers and course leaders at the University of Bristol after discovering that all the works she would be studying for three years were written by white playwrights.
Speaking about the play, Eno said:
‘I decided to confront the experience of colourism and skin bleaching which permeates the Black and Asian community.
‘When I was growing up I noticed visible changes in some of the women around me. There were little signs that revealed the use of lightening cream.
‘I knew how to spot the signs but I never understood the wider implications of this; it was a taboo subject that no one dared to address.
‘Through Check the Label I am attempting to say what many young black girls, including myself, once struggled to articulate.’
The University’s head of theatre, Catherine Hindson, said:
‘I’ve spoken to Eno about her post and apologised that she had this negative experience.
‘I’ve invited her to meet with me in September to talk through and get her feedback on changes we’ve already made in the new Theatre curriculum.
‘She agreed that her experience studying here was a positive one in many ways. Indeed, her play Check the Label was made possible through the Studioscripts programme we fund and run through our in-house Drama Society Studiospace, in partnership with Bristol Old Vic.
‘The University has made a strong commitment to increasing diversity in its new strategy and we’ve broadened out the curriculum significantly across the Faculty of Arts.’