All for women as Hear Word stars celebrities in street theatre
Actresses featured in Hear Word in street theatre performances to celebrate the just-concluded Lagos@50 while it lasted. It was a presentation of iOpenEye theatre group, and directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa. The street performance was held in Bariga, Yaba and Tafewa Balewa Square and had Bimbo Akintola, Elvina Ibru, Ufeoma McDermott, Rita Eward Debbie Ohiri and Omonor performing.
Hear Word is a collage of women’s experiences in a society that is still steeped in noxious customs and traditions that are harmful to women and the attainment of their potentials to contribute significantly to societal wellbeing.
Akintola played the role of a woman who is accused by her in-laws of not giving their son a male child. It’s a typical portraiture of how male children are valued above female children in Nigeria and how only the woman is made to bear such burden if there is a failing in that department in the family. Playing the part of the ill treatment a woman who just lost her husband receives is Edward, and how widows, mostly in the Eastern Nigeria, are locked up in a room with the corpse of their husbands, how they are made to shave the hair, drink the water used in washing the husband’s corpse, forced to marry the late husband’s brother and asked to swear in a shine, just to prove their innocence in the death of the husband.
Ibru is the successful business lady who comes under societal and parental pressures to marry. She finally finds a man, but when the man dies, she stands in danger of losing the property she brings into the marriage to her husband’s relatives, who must share his property. But she doesn’t take it lying low to play the cow widow; she fights back and gathers fellow market women to beat up and vanquish her in-laws to retain her property.
Omonor plays the role of the battered wife, who nevertheless stands up for her right. McDermott calls out the men, who beat up their wives as being irresponsible, while she acknowledges that there are still good men out there, who don’t abuse their wives, but who know how to take care of them. These set of men she calls ‘real men’ and urges women to respect them.
Hear Word mirrors Nigeria’s true-life situations, which examines the cultural and societal norms that limit the potentials of Nigerian women to play their part and contribute to development. The play shows the different experiences of Nigerian women and how oppressive the culture could be towards them.
The playwright, Fafunwa, said the play talks directly to women, and advises them to support each other more, and that they should take responsibility and realise their own power and potentials and the ability to change the country: “When the wives are happy, it’s a happier home. Women themselves are their worst enemies because mothers-in-law think they must demean their daughters-in-law; sisters-in-law and others who should be mentors think they must deal with the younger women!”
She then urged Nigeria women to get real, change their attitude to one another and stop pretending that nothing bad is happening in their lives, adding, “This is because the woman is trained not to say anything. If you are raped, you don’t say anything so you do not lose your value. If you are battered, you don’t say a word because there is nobody to really help you. So, what we are saying is, tell the truth about what is going on (in your lives) so you can move beyond it.”
Fafunwa further encouraged women to be more educated, know their rights, participate more in home-building, nation-building and the leadership of the country.