Zara Udofia-Ejoh (left); Joke Silva; producer/director, Ifeoma Fafunwa and Rita Edward at Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True press conference last week… in Lagos
• Group vows to support women seeking elective positions
As a collection of monologues based on true-life stories of Nigerian women, aimed at challenging social, cultural, and political norms that limit the potential and contribution of women, Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True provides excellent opportunities for Nigerian and African women to celebrate themselves. This is especially so in March, a month dedicated to highlighting women’s peculiar issues the world over. This much the producers of Hear Word harped on last week at a briefing about IOpenEye Productions’ exploits at Harvard University, Massachusetts, U.S.
Told by some of Nigeria’s most talented actresses, the performance piece combines artistry, social commentary and true-life stories of inequality and transformation. The stories are based on real issues affecting the lives of girls and women across Nigeria while examining what factors limit their potential for independence, leadership and meaningful contribution to development. The show not only gives a voice to women, it provides the world with insight into their unique and universal challenges.
Heard Word! tackles topics such as circumcision and barrenness as well as more universal challenges like child molestation, gender-based violence and women trafficking. The show bravely serves up the cultural and societal norms that oppress and limit African women. By so doing, it empowers women to break the culture of silence, and urge unity so as to challenge the status quo, move beyond barriers and create solutions.
The play was directed and produced by Ifeoma Fafunwa and it starred talented actresses such as Nollywood legends – Joke Silva and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Bimbo Akintola, Elvina Ibru, Ufuoma McDermott, Omonor, Zara Udofia-Ejoh, Rita Edward, Debbie Ohiri and Odenike.
At the briefing at African Heritage Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos,, the producer stated that it got invitation to perform at Harvard as a result of the recommendation of a tourist, who had previously watched the play at MUSON Centre. She also noted that the two challenges cast and crew faced during their stay abroad was the unfavourable and unpredictable weather and the absence of Nigerian delicacies in their hotel.
Fafunwa commended the audience at Harvard, saying its response was incredible, as they performed to a full house in each show. She also said there was overflow of emotions at the end of the play through the audience’s responses after each show. She also spoke on how the group was able to achieve wonderful communication with members of the audience, which could not understand the pidgin and Yoruba sentences deployed in the play. She noted that the translation of those words and sentences were displayed on a big screen for the audience to follow.
The producer also said the play would go on tour in many parts of the world in the next three years, starting from New York City.On whether the play focuses on the female gender alone, Fafunwa said the play also has lessons for the malefolk, as it teaches them how to respect, love and care for women, rather than seeing them as inferior and dispensable partners.
As a way of empowering womenfolk, Fafunwa also said her group of formidable women would offer support to any woman who desires to go into politics, especially if it finds any woman who is strong, fearless, qualified and has the necessary credentials to contest for the desired post.
She also noted that IOpenEye Productions has received lots of proposals for a possible TV series for Heard Word! and was considering granting permission because it wants the actions of the play to be viewed by as many people as possible with the hope to eradicate the obnoxious practices in Africa and achieve a tolerable and fair society.
A cast member of Heard Word!, Ibru, also spoke on the importance of the performance piece, when she noted, “The play talks about what we, as women, face in our society. We face a lot of difficulties, ranging from harassments, torture, inhumane treatments and the likes. Therefore, the play teaches women to not succumb to the pain of these unjust treatment but to rise and transform themselves to become great individuals in the society.”
On the charge that the play tends to encourage feminism, the talented actress retorted, “When men talk about issues that affect them, do you say it is ‘maninism’? When a child complains and fights for himself or herself, do you say that child is practicing ‘childinism?’ This play does not in any way encourage feminism, but it brings to public light what women face on a daily basis. It presents the popularly obscene practices that women are being subjected to. I think that this play just teaches women to become strong, diligent and purposeful towards achieving their goals in life.”
Ibru also spoke on how to end some the obnoxious cultural practices and traditions, when she said, “Of Course, there is nothing that has a beginning which will never have an end. There was a time when the killing of twins was normal, but now it is a taboo and a crime punishable by death. There was also a time when human sacrifice was a good thing, but now it has been abolished. Therefore, I don’t see any reason why some of our inhumane cultural practices cannot stop anytime soon. It is just a matter of time coupled with the joint efforts of the people, community leaders and the government to combat them.”
She also spoke on what men could learn from the play, noting, “Men should just listen. They should pay attention to the womenfolk, shower them with relentless love and care and also make sure that they do not do anything that will affect their feeling.”