OJOMOLAMI…A RIDDLE FOR THE WOMENFOLK

Filed in Arts by on July 14, 2011

Ojomolami…a riddle for the womenfolk
By SOLA BALOGUN
Thursday, July 14, 2011

•National Troupers on stage
It was a play with a large cast, yet it ended on the cinema hall stage in less than an hour and a half. Ojomolami, as directed by Josephine Igberaese at the National Theatre, Lagos, provided a new platform to address the plight of women. Although written by a man, Mr Martin Adaji, who incidentally is the Artistic Director and CEO of the National Troupe of Nigeria, the play, as interpreted by a female director, added another voice to the clarion call for the African society to accord women their rights.

The death of Onuche (Matthew O Osisanya), a 62-year-old Igala man, expectedly spurred the traditional search for his killers among his many wives. This is a customary practice in most parts of Africa, including Igalaland, home of the playwright. Some of Onuche’s kinsmen accuse his first wife, Mama (Anne Njemanze) of killing her husband and thus demand a confession.
Meanwhile, a flashback into Onuche’s past reveals how he was once told by Atebo (Toyin Oshinaike) that he would never father a male child. This ostensibly lured him into illicit affairs with other women outside his marriage. Yet he had more female children until his death shortly after retirement. Only his first wife knows this secret as none of his relations knew his pact with the gods.

But the central conflict sets in when Ojama (Virginia Okereku) offers to stop her uncles-Idachaba (Odekina Ocholi) and Alilu (Okorie Michael) from inheriting Mama and her step mother, Alimo (Taiwo Atigogo). Ojama, as an educated woman, teams up with Aiye (Ruth Ebeleuede) to challenge her father’s men, who want to reap where they never sowed. Here the playwright confronts tradition with modernity, using Ojama’s boldness and exposure to introduce legality into the issue of her father’s inheritance.

A total theatre in every sense, Ojomolami showcases Africanness in its display of music, dance, folklore and masquerades. These come at intervals, particularly during the burial rites in honour of Onuche. The role of women in the entire play cannot be overemphasised as the tripodal influence of Ojama, Mama and Aiye eventually instigate a major resistance against humiliation of the womenfolk.

In the concluding part of the play, peace returns to both parties as the issue of Onuche’s will resolves the controversy over who inherits his widows and property. Somehow, the director harmonises the conflict between Onuche’s relations, led by Idakwo (Soibifaa Dokubo), and his family, thus conceding victory to the latter. But beyond this simplistic resolution, the highly promising drama leaves more rooms for dialogue/episodes that could further educate the audience on the subject of widowhood both at cultural and contemporary levels.
Nevetheless, the play provided aesthetic and scenic entertainment, just as the audience savoured much of indigenous music, costume and choreography that reflect Nigeria’s cultural diversity. In the same way, the production benefitted from the high quality of lighting and realistic set mounted by Abiodun Abe. It is hoped that after this maiden outing, the play, under the same direction, would tour the country and further advance the course of women in their quest for eradication of barbaric customs against widows and women in general.

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