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Ineh … A celebration of motherhood

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A scene from the play

A scene from the play

The English poet and clergyman, George Herbert, in his wisdom, celebrated women, especially mothers for their roles in bringing up children. It is a role he saw as helping to mould tomorrow’s leaders. Herbert must have compared and contrasted roles of mothers in the family with schoolmasters, particularly those who have given up other human enterprises, to effectively take care of their children when he said: “One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmaster.”

It is in telling the world that good mothers do not fall from heaven, but that they make sacrifices that Ineh, The Musical, was recently performed at MUSON Centre, Lagos, to honour Chief Clara Imiefo Ijewere, who turned 80 in June. The musical tells an intriguing true life story of the woman, her family and the sacrifices mothers make as full-time house wives.

From the opening dances that arouse audience’s anxiety, gradually leading to the melodrama, the musical unveils how Mama (Tosan Edremoda-Uugbeye) returns from her textile trading business one day to find her first child in an unwholesome situation –– dirty, wet and crying.

Piquied by the graphics, which depict abandonment and rejection, the woman makes up her mind to give up her trading to give the boy and his siblings the necessary care they deserve. Though, this initially does not go down well with some of her family members and friends since she is among the few women that are well read and could have occupied enviable positions in both the public and private sectors. She ignores the protests; she believes that children are blessings from God and parents should spend quality time with them. She puts her all in the care of her children and home, not minding that her husband is capable of hiring as many house helps needed to do the chores.

Mama strongly believes that money and the warmth of the best childcare giver can never replace or be equated to a mother’s love for the children. Ineh highlights some of the negative effects of surrogacy, parents relinquishing their roles to house helps, nannies and schools, absentee parenting, the play raises fundamental questions like ‘Who is the best person to take care of the child at his/her formative age? Must mothers neglect their family at the expense of their career? Should mothers, for the sake of their children, be complete house wives, depending on their husbands for their needs?’

Although the current economic realities do not support a woman depending on her husband for all her needs, the play encourages those that have the wherewithal to keep their wives at home to do so, as it is for the good of the home and the children.

With songs and dances that showcase the rich Esan culture, the play shows that a successful woman (mother) is the one that is able to keep her home and nurture her children to be successful in life. This is the case with Mama, whose six children end up doing well in their various fields.

DESPITE the inspiring storyline and the creative infusion of Esan songs and dances to the performance, which further held the audience spellbound, the artistic director, Makinde Adeniran, overdramatised the opening with a plethora of European dances, which almost took away the sombre effect of the message, and gave the impression that Ineh is a foreign opera. There was disconnect from the African story, which Ineh tells. Opening with a local Esan dance would have been apt and easy to relate with. In spite of this, the musical was well performed, and it is revealing, educating and entertaining.

The costumes and the number of maids in the house depict Mama’s family as a privileged one, which means Mama could afford not to work. But instead of allowing her privileged status to take the better side of her by being lethargic, Mama engages in the tasking jobs at home, and sees to the needs of her husband and the children, a sacrifice many of her kind rare make.

The playwright and executive producer, Mr. Fred Ijewere, brought a feminist angle to the performance as he gives too much credit to Mama, as if the decision to be a full time housewife is solely hers. There should have been a balance of the roles of the father, though this is said in the passing. Acting it out would have given it the balance, that the father is as important in the home as the mother.

Beside Baba’s support, Mama faces derision as ‘House Wives Are Liabilities,’ one of the songs in the musical, says. The lines, which read in part, You better don’t deceive yourself, house wives are liabilities. Any man wey like dem is asking for trouble. Any man wey marry dem is like a black kettle, double trouble that is double trouble. I want transport fare, bring money; I want make hair, bring money o; I want tie wrapper, bring money, o; you better don’t deceive yourself, housewives are liabilities.

This could not be addressing Mama, but rather shows how much pressure Mama’s husband withstands to back his wife’s decision. If Mama had given her all, without the support and provision of the husband, the sacrifice would not be complete or meaningful. Another moral worthy of emulation is the ability of the children, despite their well-to-do background, to speak their local language and relate with their people. It is an attribute that is lacking among those brought up in that class.

A total theatre, the musical deserves to be performed in all the nooks and crannies of the country, as a way of amending broken homes, sensitising parents to be up to their responsibilities and to project the importance of parents speaking their mother tongues to their children, as part of their cultural heritage.


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