I had the opportunity of seeing HEAR WORD on the 30th day of December, 2018. I made it to the 7pm show and got a ticket by sheer luck as EVERYTHING WAS SOLD OUT! I’m always pleased to see people turn out for things like these.
HEAR WORD! is a powerful piece of performance art that combines artistry, social commentary and true-life stories of gender inequality and transformation. The show targets real issues affecting the lives of women and which limit their potential for independence, achievement and participation in leadership. HEAR WORD! asks audiences to step up, speak out and unite to create a better world.
Some of the cast members were :
Joke Silva, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Ufuoma McDermott, Elvina Ibru, Zara Udofia-Ejoh, Odenike, Deborah Ohiri, Omonor, Oluchi Odii.
The first act focused on issues women face in the society, in the family setting and even in their places of worship. The monologues and vignettes showed the women as lost souls. It portrayed them as humans who had accepted their fates to be second class citizens.
Most of the acts were solo acts while some were performed by the entire cast. These acts were in form of monologues and vignettes.
In one of the monologues, a woman was locked up in a small room because her late husband’s relatives accused her of killing her husband. In this monologue, she talked about her fears and talked about her sister-in-law who drank the water used in washing her husband’s dead body – three days after being in the mortuary – just to prove her innocence.
There was another monologue where Joke Silva was begging a husband who obviously did not value her. In one of the lines she said;
“Sweetheart, you validate me. If there are more children, bring them home”
Themes bordering on rape, abuse, domestic violence, child molestation, female genital mutilation etc were dissected and analyzed through beautiful performances. I found most of these acts depressing, intense and disturbing. And to think these stories were realities of so many women in Nigeria made it more painful. Most of these women couldn’t fight back.
Something I took away from the play was this; sometimes, we women enforce strict societal roles for other women to live by. Like the mother who flogs her daughter when she sees her period – just to remind her of the dangers and crisis pregnancy will bring. Like the shock on the faces of the women when they find out a man serves his wife breakfast in bed.
There are a lot of things that the average Nigerian woman needs to learn, unlearn and relearn.
However, the second act explored the lives of women who have finally come to know and understand their place in the society. Women who resist with their words and actions.
In one of the acts, an illiterate woman builds a successful clothing business ALL BY HERSELF. After her husband’s death, his relatives come from the village to claim “his properties”. And they do not come alone. They come with another wife and a child. But this successful business woman does not give in to their threats. Instead, she rallies her fellow market women to attack and even calls the police.
There was an act where Ufoma McDermott reinstated the fact that you can be a tongue-speaking-holyghost-filled Christian and still enjoy SEX. On the beauty of experiencing orgasms, she said :
“My Vagina sings and I sing along”
Some of my favourite quotes from HEAR WORD :
“A woman is taught to pack up her desire and put it at the back of her cupboard”
Omonor in a vignette titled Unlimited Potential, which involved lots of dancing, declared:
“They said you’re a woman! What do you know? I reject all limitations placed on my life’s expectation. I have a vital contribution to my nation’s contribution. I am a force. A tidal wave and I won’t hide. My destiny is not for you to decide.”
Omonor in a vignette titled “FAMILY MEETING”
“If that man should beat me again, I’ll take a knife and I’ll cut his penis. They looked at me and looked at each other and said they’ll talk to their son”
“Na monkey dey beat woman, no be man.”
“It doesn’t matter how many children you have. We only started counting from the first penis.”
HEAR WORD has come to stay and I really wish every Nigerian women would have the opportunity to see this play.
In the words of Ifeoma Fafunwa the Director;
Significant positive societal change is possible when we achieve the full engagement of women in leadership and decision-making. Let’s build a world where every child, woman and man feels equally valued, safe and part of all humanity. To create a world where everyone feels safe, valued, productive and connected; we need the true engagement of women in leadership and decision-making!