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GENDER WAR IN NIGERIA DRAMA: A CASE STUDY OF WIVES REVOLT JP CLARK AND BROKEN CALABASH BY TESS AKAEKE ONWUEMA
This study is concerned with the examine war and protest against gender inequality in the in two African novels such as Wives Revolt JP Clark and Broken Calabash By Tess Akaeke Onwuema. With the influence of feminism, many Nigerian women embark on the identification of women’s personhood by controverting the representations of Nigerian women in male-centered works. African theatre, in particular, is very skeptical about the feminist ideology aimed at changing the status of women in society. Similarly, many people are suspicious of women’s liberation struggle and its consequent effect on the society. Hence feminism in Nigeria is rent with many contentious issues. Taking Marxist and feminist perspectives in the analysis of Wive Revolt and Broken Calabash, the researcher explores some of the major issues in the character’s revolutionary gender-cum-class struggle for a pay rise. The proposition is that Broken Calabash embodies most of the concerns in women’s struggle for survival in contemporary Africa.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Manifestation of the protest against gender inequality examines feminism revolt as a legitimate instrument against gender inequality as it affects women using the following texts and authors as case study. The Wives Revolt, J. P. Clark, Broken Calabash By Tess Akaeke Onwuema, So long a letter, Mariama Ba, Second class citizen, Buchi Emecheta, The women of Orena are wiser than the gods, Osadebamwen Oamen and The Dragon Funeral,. Emeka Nwabueze.
The word feminism according to oxford advanced learners dictionary is defined as movement for recognition of claims of women for rights (legal, political, etc) equal to those possessed by men. The concept of feminism is Euro-American. It was established in Africa through the educated African women who felt marginalized within the African cultural society and context as well as having the notion that, in the cultural African society, women like children are seen but not heard and as such has to change their status quo. Aihevba (2006) in his work literacy criticism: A practical approach writes that; “feminism is a revolutionary movements that is focused on specifically the female subject of representing and challenging the mentality that women are subordinate to men. It is a fight against cultural representation of women as domestic and sexual object only good for nothing else”.
The Cambridge Encyclopedia defines feminism as “a socio-political movement whose objective is equality of right, status and power for men and women” (62). Judith Burdick (2007) in women in transition says “feminism” is an explicitly reduction of the life style created by strong coercive norms that define what women are and can do. She further states that feminism is a psychological revolution based on women’s insistence that they have the basic right to make choice and be judged as individuals.
In conclusion feminism to the researchers understanding is ideologically designed to liberate and emancipate women worldwide from oppression, ignorance and poverty, and that freedom for women is also liberation for me. This means it is meant to correct the impression that women are culturally inferior, whose identity was to be found in the desire to please, serve others and seek definition through being secondary to men, racial minorities, sexual deviants (sexual objects) or even the masses only good for domestic chores and also seen as baby making machine. Being object of male violence, religious fundamentalism and pornography which presented them as literally in bondage to men.
Historically, feminism as a movement has its root or origin in enlightenment campaign against slavery, sexual assault, prejudice and other forms of cultural and literacy oppression suffered by women world over. For instance, in the United States of America, feminist movement was born out of anti-slavery campaign which was subsequently championed by Rosa Park who was against supremacy in America. In the same vein, women in North and South of Europe as a result of prejudice, and privileges denied them also rose to the occasion of feminism. While for the African, it was the educated black women who imported the Euro-American concept of feminism to challenge the institution of slavery and resist white men’s sexual assault. In the view of the above, early feminist who managed to rise above sexual prejudice, their interest was to reconstitute literature in order to do justice to female point of view, concern and value and to identify recurrent and distorting “image of women” or to bring to light and to counter the covert sexual biases written into a literary work.
Consequences, a good literature to them (early feminists) was therefore, a work that is produced to project the freedom and dignity of womanhood and reawakening of feminist consciousness, by appealing to the idea that liberation for women is liberation for men. From the above definitions vis-à-vis conception and the brief history of feminism, it becomes believes that feminism could be socialist, cultural and radical.
In the Broken Calabash (2009) Tess Onwueme recreates a radical feminist in Ona, an Idegbe (a woman and an only child), whose desire to marry her choice and lover, Diaku, against the traditional customs of Idegbe and osu (outcast) sparks off a fierce gender war between Ona and her father, Courtuma, a symbol of the oppressive traditions. As an Idegbe, tradition forbids Ona to be married but to stay in her father’s house and populate it for the continuity of the patriarchal linage.
Ona insists on her right to personal choice and resists what she sees as an outdated, oppressive tradition. “Anything that cannot stand the force of change”, she says, “must
be uprooted or be blown into oblivion by the storm heralding the new dawn” (TBC 122).
Although Ona’s desire is thwarted in the end, she forces her father, Courtuma, down the drain with all the oppressive tradition he denotes by implicating him in incest, the grief of which kills him.
In The Broken Calabash, the indomitable spirit of Sofola’s tradition in Courtuma meets the defiant spirit of a radical feminist in Ona, and though Ona’s wish is dashed, she succeeds in uprooting possible obstacles to women’s freedom. Ona’s liberating strategy is criticised in Nigerian drama as counterproductive, anti-communitarian and a threat to African life. In the words of Dennis Akoh the execution of the feminist vision in the African plays “exposes the chimera and hypothetical nature of feminism within a culture that places high premium on the family system and its values” (59). Regard for family life is identified as one of the main issues in women’s liberation struggles in JP Clark’s Wives Revolt (2010).
The current gender theory in Nigeria seeks to harmonise the gains of traditional aesthetics with those of radical feminism by eliminating the ineffectual assertion of Sofola’s female protagonists and the violence-ridden, counter productivity of Onwueme’s radical feminists.
Contemporary gender theory in Nigeria contextualizes feminism, seeking to preserve the basic fabrics of African life. It emphasizes women’s empowerment, non-violent activism and strong individualistic and collective contestation, and hence, foregrounds strong female characters that not only dare but transcend gender oppression. Tess Akaeke Onwuema, Chikwenye Ogunyemi, Obioma Nwanneka, Chioma Opara, Theodora Akachi Ezeigbo, Mary Kolawole, Julie Okoh, Catherine Acholonu, Ogundipe-Leslie, Osita Ezenwanebe, and Tracy Ezeajughi-Utoh, to mention but a few, articulate and analyse liberating ideologies for gender discourse capable of ensuring a sustainable, context friendly strategy for women’s emancipation not only in Nigeria but also in Africa, and this forms the theoretical framework for the study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Culturally, the image of womanhood is represented by particularly as a symbol of erotic desire positioned by race, class and gender as a subservient group of people lower and inferior to the male folks. Again, under part lineage which mark most African society, the image of the women was portrayed as those who are culturally inferior, whose identity is to be found in the desire to please and serve men and seek definition by being secondary to men.
Haven x-rayed the circumstance women have found themselves, their pitiable condition evade position, it calls for radical and correct representation of the image of womanhood through literature, by a means of rebuilding the image of women generally. The statement of this research work problem therefore, is that of finding out and describing how womanhood has fared culturally and how feminism as a literary concept and movement in African literature has helped to reconstruct or reposition the image of womanhood in Africa through a selection of some notable authors produced works in their contribution towards redeeming the image of women.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The main purpose of this study is to show the selected authors portrayal of the respective identification of the role culture and feminism play in repositioning of women in the society. Also the study purposes to taking an overview of the African woman in relation to the concept and movement of feminism, in the themes of these text which depicts the present position of the African woman.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions are to guide the direction of the study.
i. What makes females suffers of gender inequality?
ii. What is t he role of African societal culture in gender inequality perpetration?
iii. How does feminism stand as a tool of salvaging the female ego?
iv. What contributions have some selected authors made in the manifestation of protest against gender inequality?
v. What does the African women think about this protest?
vi. What are the contributions of some Nigerian radical feminists in solving this problem?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study when successfully completed will serve as a document that portrays how literature:
i. Challenges, debunk and confront the rude negative conception of the female.
ii. Represent the image of the woman correctly in the feministic sense.
iii. Reveal the reason why people must see women as agent in the society whose feelings should be respected.
iv. Depict how the image of womanhood was portrayed in Africa cultural perspective before and after the advent of feminism in African literature.
v. To salute my fellow true African feminist for t heir courage and dignity.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This related investigative literature is focused against gender inequality and its manifestation so far in the scenario of protest. Consequently, the above subject matter has been designed to cover two selected literature texts viz; the Wives Revolt by JP Clark and Broken Calabash By Tess Akaeke Onwuema.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Patriarchy: A societal system of a country or state that is ruled or controlled by men.
Patronage: Word used to describe the relationship between father and child that continues in a family of each generation.
Cultural: Connected with culture which means the customs and beliefs, arts, way of life and social organization of a particular group of people.
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