Adolescent Theatre: Domestic Violence and VVF in Northern NigeriaINCRESE
By Amatesiro Dore
The shows are site-specific: Kampala, a Gbagyi village on the outskirt of Maikunkele, the suburb where the airport in Minna is located. The language is Hausa, the lingua franca of northern Nigeria and passport to the soul of the people.
The first performance is an unspoken dance drama. The drumbeat of Joshua Yakubu, thirteen year old student of Government Day Secondary School, Bosso, and John O. Unukhaso, twelve, of Day Secondary School, Tunga, ushers in Aminah Othman (sixteen, Army Day Secondary School) who plays the unnamed wife and cook of an abusive husband and neighbourhood drunk (performed by the talented Elijah Emmanuel, sixteen, Zarumai Model School).
It’s the usual pattern of African domestic violence: the wife works hard in the kitchen, prepares for the arrival of her husband who returns to meet an empty table; he bellows for his wife, she doesn’t return fast enough, when she does return with his dinner, the hardworking man is not consoled, rejects his dinner as nonsense and leaves the house for a drink; he staggers back with extra bottles of alcohol and beats his wife for fun; the neighbour’s wife (Rafiat Taofik, seventeen, Army Day) intervenes and earns some beating of her own; the neighbour’s husband (Sadiq Garba Isah, sixteen, Bosso Secondary School) shows up to talk some sense into the drunk and reconciles the battered wife to her repentant husband.
What a funny skit to whet the appetite of Gbagyi villagers fresh from Friday prayers at the mosque, traders gathered at the village square, housewives who have taken time away from chores, farmers away from their farms, school children on holidays, Fulani men and women watching and laughing at the artistic spectacle. The costumes are on point, to use a Nigerian expression, and the performance of young thespians justifies their time away from school to rehearse for the show. It delights the audience and the critic is very impressed.
The second show In Baka Ji Bari Ba Ka Ji Hoho is written and directed by Temple Anselm-Okoye Emmanuel, transliterated as If You Do Not Hear Stop, You Will Hear Ho-ho. Larai (Hafsat Dahiru, twelve, Model Day Secondary School) is the daughter of conservative Muslim parents (Suleiman Abdulmumin, eighteen, Government Day Science Secondary School, and Bara’atu Ibrahim, seventeen, Maryam Babagida Girls Science College) who wish to commercialise the labours of their offspring and earn as much as they could before sending her into an early marriage to multiply as soon as possible. Despite the concerns and forewarnings of her kind schoolteacher, Mallama (Sabashi Saiadatu Suleiman, seventeen, Maryam Babagida Girls Science College), Larai is married off to a man who is quick to dispose of her after the death of their child as a result of birth complications and the stench of his wife due to her uncontrollable urination, a symptom of vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). The return of Larai to the home of her parents, after she has been driven from her matrimonial home, is the climax of the show. The actors are immersed into their characters, the I-Told-You-So Mallama, the regretful father, the inconsolable mother and devastated Larai are sterling in their performances.
Like an Italian opera, the Hausa language of the performances is not a barrier. Rather, it carries the show to a wonderful crescendo, heartbreak and disappointment needs no interpretation. They are universal emotions expertly communicated by the body language and voice of the actors. The colours and sound of the show are more impactful than any lecture or brochure about domestic abuse and vesicovaginal fistula.
The shows are part of the outreach activities of the Haajara Usman Girls Leadership Programme, yet at the end, they are also pieces of art, to entertain and to enlighten.