It’s been a long journey from the market town of Farafenni, near the Gambian border with Senegal, to the London catwalk, but that is the kind of journey that Jainaba Fofana has successfully completed. Africa Fashion managed to catch up with her at a recent charity event, courtesy of the Black Afro Queens specialist modelling agency.
Jainaba (or ‘JJ’ as she is known to her friends), is second oldest of 9 children, born in 1989. She recalls how different life was back home.
“Farafenni was famous for its market and people would come from miles around”, she explained. “I still remember my mother booking a horse-taxi to help take all of our purchases back home. That was a normal form of transport”.
“Clothing in Farafenni was very simple. Very traditional”, she told us. “When I was 10, we moved to the capital, Banjul and everything changed”.
The City of Banjul is the capital. It sits at the mouth of the Gambia River -just as it enters the Atlantic Ocean after running 1,130 kilometres from the Fouta Djallon plateau in north Guinea. If you want to see some cool images of Gambia, we recommend you take a look at this site.
“Fashion changed so much”, JJ told us. “Girls in the city were all wearing trousers and nice tops. It’s cool, but when you have too many imports, it can destroy the local market”.
“It was amazing to arrive from a traditional Gambian town, where most of the products were produced locally, and suddenly you are in a large city where people can get products from India, China, anywhere”, she said. “That was a surprise”.
“On the plus side, there are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world near Banjul”, she said with a smile. “The Senegambia has over 350 bedrooms and is the biggest hotel in the country. The beaches along Banjul and Cape Point are amazing”.
Alongside modelling, JJ now has her own salon in Swansea, specialising in single braids, weaves, cornrows and twists.
“While I love working with clients in my salon, modelling is definitely my favourite thing”, she said. “I was so happy being spotted the first time and now I model whenever I have time”.
We asked how often JJ manages to get back to The Gambia?
“I try to go back regularly”, she replied. “The weather is so much better than here!”
Lastly, we asked if she had a message for youngsters starting out in fashion.
“Have confidence in yourself. You must believe it will happen”.
We thank JJ for taking the time to speak with us. We wish JJ luck with her modelling career and her salon!