Theatre director Ifeoma Fafunwa is at it again. The director of the stage adaptation of Sefi Atta’s Not my Affair and the delightfully controversial Vagina Monologues stormed the art scene with a new, provocative yet exhilarating stage production titled HEAR WORD! Naija Woman Talk True.
The production, which ran through May 2014 in Lagos and Abuja, unapologetically showcased the real life perils and triumphs of girl-children and women in Nigeria.
In each scene, different women told the tales of their religious, cultural and social ordeals. Showcasing true stories from 20 Nigerian women with the use of artistic devices such as social commentary, flashbacks, soliloquys, biting wit and comic relief conveyed by a stellar cast, the end result was a piece of work the audience found easy to relate to – and they responded with cathartic enthrallment.
The stage performance was delivered by the usual suspects: Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett, Joke Silva, Kate Henshaw, Bimbo Akintola, Iretiola Doyle and Kemi Lala Akindoju amongst others, and was staged in theatres and market places across town.
According to Ifeoma Fafunwa, “The ultimate aim of showcasing the play across different venues is to bring these issues to the forefront of conversation in Nigeria by creating awareness and proffering solutions to the issues bearing in mind that many are getting more enlightened on the plight of women through the play platform. The intention is to highlight these relevant issues and unite Nigerian women across all strata.”
While the theme of gender inequality, a scourge being constantly battled the world over, was prevalent in the production, the play also highlighted issues peculiar to Nigerian women.
HEAR WORD! Naija Woman Talk True translates as a call for Nigerian women to speak out, speak up and speak the truth about what they are going through. It is an apt title, illustrating cases in Nigeria where women are suppressed, denied the power to exercise their fundamental human rights or exert their strengths.
The most interesting aspects of the play showed women who were able to rise above the limitations imposed on them.
Some overcame being snubbed and scorned by other women who had been conditioned to live within those limitations and had chosen to remain there. Some scenes featured mothers who forbade their daughters from interacting with the male folk when they were younger. They locked them up and set the highest standards for their daughters, yet those same mothers were later forced to concede and settle for less as time passed and their unmarried daughters got older.
It was an incredibly moving production, placing front and centre the everyday issues experienced by Nigerian women. Yet it was also a celebration – an uplifting testament to the potential of Nigerian women, irrespective of socio-economic status, age, or religious inclinations and upbringing.