By Anote Ajeluorou
BEYOND the entertainment and feminine spectacle which it provided in amplitude inside Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Lagos, the Titilope Sonuga-inspired Becoming show last weekend is somewhat difficult to describe. Perhaps, architect-turned-spoken word poet, Sonuga’s telling title of her first act ‘Have you seen a woman?’ gives insight into the direction of the all-women’s concert.
Who exactly is a woman and happens in her world? How do men perceive her, relate with her? Does she get the best from the world she inhabits? What are her fears? What gives her happiness and how does she get it? How do the men around her help her achieve happiness? In all, what is her place in society?
‘Have you seen a woman?’ is Sonuga’s loaded question for society and for the men who co-inhabit different spaces with the women in their lives. At what point does a woman’s ‘no’ translates into ‘yes’ that encourages men to inflict all manners of emotional pain on her? It became the defining question for the show, as Sonuga explored the many facets of a woman in the course of the evening in her enchanting, impeccable spoken delivery in a poetry that transported the audience’s soul to magical realms. Hers isn’t the usual ball-bashing type like her co-performer in music Ruby Gyang, but a firm engagement with the male folk. Neither does she spare women either; Sonuga wants her kind to be clear-eyed in their relationships and to know when to pull back.
So, it was an enactment of a woman story from her beginning, early years and its travails, her midlife and its inevitable crisis, with her men. This was Sonuga’s story of epic proportion told with warmth and empathy.
But it was the free-spirited Falana, formerly based in Cuba, who started the showpiece evening with her skills on the drums that produced a stirring performance, as the hall boomed with her voice and hands in an all-female band – two guitarists, one saxophonist, one drummer, Chopsticks and two vocalists. Falana’s stage presence was inspiring as she traversed, possessed it with the ease and fluidity of a nymph.
The set design by Jude Okpala and his crew provided a magical accompaniment to the near-all white-clad female performers; it was a set for angels, and it lent a certain halloo to the acts.
Sonuga’s second entry with the story of a girl-child’s birth and on which the question hangs, came with the accompaniment of Yoruba chants supplied by Deborah, an enchantress of some power. And so, at what point does the gloriousness of such birth begin to transform into something other than what it was to an object of uncertain future to be toyed by men? From here, Sonuga begins to explore love found and lost.
When Omloara came on with ‘I’ll be your love,’ she really got the hall rocking to her beats. Then Sonuga came back with ‘There are a few things more beautiful than a sunset…’ that ends with the inevitable pains a woman is plunged by the one she loves. Falana then intervened before Sonuga could begin to rebrand women and lift them up from the ashes of a bitten love with her 10 receipts, as she sings softly, ‘Know when to leave…/know when to burn the bridges…’
But Ruby Gyang will have none of that softness from women who are spurned in love as her music ‘Ok’ takes a turn and asserts that a woman be strong and bold to take the exit and not allow anyone crumble her world for her. She toughens the ladies ‘on how to handle breakups and not beg.’ Beyounce is her inspiration on this score.
From Sonuga, ‘a woman is not your rite of passage…/she is not your game of numbers…’ explores how very useful a woman is, ‘a woman is busy… working’ and ‘ a woman is a writer, painter, dancer, singer…/they are all dreamers… follow your dream, but don’t screw it up…/somewhere, there is a dream waiting for you to start…’ Also, Sonuga affirms that there are second chances for love ‘even (love) scars are masterpieces’ that a woman bears as trophy of her triumph in love because ‘the heart is like a fist, (that) feels like throwing a punch’.
On a conciliatory note, Ruby Gyang wooed the men after she’d first bashed their balls with ‘Shout out to my babe’ and enjoined the ladies with their men in the hall to publicly affirm their love for them!
In ‘love scars don’t scare,’ Sonuga brings her poetry class act to a beautiful denouement, as she says ‘…rock bottom is a perfect place to start…’ as she enjoined women never to be shy of starting all over again as they may be twice lucky in love. With ‘the victory dance is just about beginning…/loving yourself without shame…’ she brought the show that was part musical, part poetry and part dramatic journey of the ritual of becoming an uninhibited woman to a close.
The applause was as warm and encouraging as was the support Intel gave the show in believing in women’s performative power. Surely, an encore performance that enjoys support from women’s product makers back by strong publicity blitz would help expose these amazing women of immense talent to a wider audience than attended the November 6 show.