Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Vagina Monologues

I saw this last Thursday. There has been so much ado and excitement surrounding the Nigerian production and, never having seen any version of the VM, I was curious to see what all the hype was about.

My first thought was "Who’s going to leave work early on a weekday to make a 6pm showing of a play?" Could I have been more wrong? The Agip Hall at the MUSON Center was filled with many of Lagos’s who’s who, as well as us more ordinary folk.

The host assured us repeatedly that there was nothing shocking about what we were about to see, which only succeeded in getting me ready to be thoroughly scandalized.

For people who have never heard of the Vagina Monologues, (Under what rock have you been living for the last few years?), it is a series of monologues about the vagina and in some cases by the vagina. What would the vagina say if it could talk, what would it wear, what have been the experiences of vaginas (and their owners) in different parts of the globe (this included stories of rape, domestic violence, lesbianism and coming to love the vagina). The performances were wonderful all around, although I particularly enjoyed the monologues of Iretiola Doyle, Elvina Ibru (what a commanding presence she has), Omonor Imobhio, Joke Silva and Buki Ajayi.

The vagina celebration ended with an exquisitely eloquent exhortation by Joke Silva to reclaim the dreaded c-word - cunt. As beautiful as she made it sound, I still hate the word! I shudder to type it. And reading it (especially on my blog) is even worse! And that’s because I cannot get away from the venom and hate behind the word when it’s hurled at women as the worst possible kind of insult. The argument that words (or people, for that matter) only have power over you when you permit them to, and that by 'reclaiming' the word you take away the sting, is a common one. But I cannot agree with it. If a word was borne in hateful circumstances and its early and/or common uses are as such, then how can such a word become redeemed? How can you take it for your own and use it without feeling the hurt that it was meant to inflict? (Now, I’ve started wondering about the origins of the word.) I feel the same way about the word "nigger" and that’s why I would never ever use it.

The host’s assurances about the content of the play turned out to be highly unnecessary. For one thing, he was kinda, sorta right. There was nothing overly shocking (to me – I should add). I would have expected many Nigerians to take exception to some of the explicit language and descriptions, as well as to the reference to lesbianism, which brings me to my second point. The host was, I felt, preaching to the choir. I mean, you do have to be already somewhat interested in the subject matter or sufficiently open-minded to shell out money to see a play called "The Vagina Monologues." Definitely not every Nigerian is conservative by nature and would shy from frank sexual discussions, but I’m not sure that other groups of people would have come to see this play.

On reflection, it probably would have been more interesting to see it at the University of Lagos, where it was cheaper and would have attracted more diverse groups of people.


adefunke said...

After many plans to go see the play, alas malaria struck! I had planned to go see it with a guy friend who went all the same and was thouroughly scandalised by what was being said, by nigerian female actors no doubt!

Ore said...

Sorry to hear about your malaria. The play was interesting, perhaps even more so to share and observe audience reaction.

My God! Are you at work?

sokari said...

I have to agree with you Ore. It is not the word but the way in which it is said. "cunt" is just a word but it has been given a meaning that is so violent and abusive to women that I dont even want to reclaim it. We can take away the power it has by knowing that it contains violence that we will not accept, never. I do not wish to say this word or have it as my own.

adefunke said...

Darling, I am the laziest thing on the face of this planet, of course I am not at work! Unlike my fellow Nigerians who were wondering what to do for the duration of the census, i.e. go to work or stay at home I was very clear on what the modus operandi should be; stock up your fridge, rent enough movies, get enough books, switch your phone off and enjoy this very early (or very late) christmas present!

tori said...

I saw it here in the US a couple months ago and simply adored it. I would have loved to see the Nigerian production.