Women, War, and Conflict: A Thematic Discourse on Femi Osofisan's Women of Owu

Women, War, and Conflict: A Thematic Discourse on Femi Osofisan's Women of Owu

Festus O. Idoko (University of Jos, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5987-0.ch006

Abstract

Conflict and war are not unique to Nigeria or Africa. It is now a truism that in conflict situations women are one of the worst hit. The reason is not farfetched: women are in conflict areas, and they are likely to be raped, kidnapped, killed, and or end up as widows/concubines. Although women are seldom directly involved in conflict situations, they serve as the first line of aid, providing what can best be described as succor to the casualties of conflicts as well as maintain the home front in the incessant absence of the male and youths. Predicated on critical feminist theory and the relational theory of conflict, the chapter from a thematic view discusses the plight of women in conflict situations both within the text and the context that is Nigeria. Using Femi Osofisan's “Women of Owu” (2006), an adaptation of Euripedes' “The Trojan Women,” the chapter argues that the manner in which Osofisan dramatizes the story of the African woman trapped in conflict and war is both sympathetic and resilient, yet a gruesome reminder of the position women find themselves in in conflict situations.
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Introduction

Freire’s (1970) assertion that oppression is almost always manifested in leaders who shy away from dialogue, and more so where such leaders insist on imposing their decisions. This manipulative approach does not organize the people or liberate them. This sets the tone for this discourse and throws some light on the implications of a dialogically barren leadership, since the lack of constructive dialogue itself can lead to conflict and even war. This assertion also draws attention to the contradictions of dictatorial leadership that employs the weapon of manipulation. Both implications are in effect tantamount to oppression which is a precursor to conflict and war.

In an axiomatic sense, existence here on earth is necessarily conflictual. In fact, in many conflict situations, women are one of the worst hit. The reason this is so is the irreducible fact that life itself is not a perfect bed of roses. Disagreements almost always degenerate into conflict and if this is not carefully managed and resolved it can result in war. This scenario has amply been reflected and mediated in several dramatic texts.

The paper argues that the manner in which Osofisan retells the narrative of the African woman (ala Womem of Owu), is both sympathetic and resilient, yet a gruesome reminder of the disadvantageous position women find themselves in conflict situations. In addition, the paper draws attention to the fatal hope of the women in the promised revenge of the gods and argues that Osofisan’s subjugation of the role of the gods yet again shows how much less faith we should have in the gods.

The paper concludes that in reality, the irony of liberation is that the triumph of any side, unless based on genuine and fair grounds, would only have set the stage for yet another conflict sooner than later, and the likelihood that women would be worse hit is still very high. This irony, within the literary text under review, is accentuated by the fact that more often than not, literary texts (owing to the nature of their literariness and coupled with the low level of literacy), in Nigeria and Africa at large, are not available to a larger majority of the populace who are supposed to be the vanguard of the liberation, and here, women constitute a larger percentage.

Conflicts in the Dramatic Text

While it is a fact that playwrights draw from the on goings within the society ranging from the social, the religious, cultural, to the political and the historical, the flip side is that what drives the inner actions of the play is conflict and most if not all playwrights seek to resolve this conflict that drives the actions of the play. For instance, Ola Rotimi (1976) in his play Kurunmi demonstrated the fact that the conflict over tradition coupled with the refusal of the ruling elite to embrace dialogue led to the war in the play between those who support that the tradition be upheld and those who desired to change it. Similarly Rotimi (1979) in The Gods are not to Blame (through metaphoric postulations) made the point that it was the conflict over allegiance to tribe (as exemplified by the protagonist-Odewale) rather than love for country that led Nigeria into her first civil war.

In addition, Irene Isoken Salami-Agunloye (2008) in Idia, the Warrior Queen, we see a situation where a conflict between one of the King’s Chiefs over the latter’s wife eventually blossomed into war when the Chief switched allegiance to the rival Igala Kingdom. Furthermore, in Emotan (2001), Emotan’s quest for justice motivated her to mobilize popular support for the exiled heir prince leading to the overthrow the King and restoration of order to the Bini kingdom.

In all these instances of conflicts women are usually caught in the cross fire even where they are not actually in the forefront of the war. Women are likely to be killed and or end up as widows. Although women are seldom directly involved in conflict situations, they serve as the first line of aid, providing what can best be described as succor to the casualties of conflicts as well as maintain the home front in the incessant absence of the male and youths. Predicated on critical feminist theory and the relational theory of conflict, the paper, from a thematic view discusses the plight of women in conflict situations both within the text and the context that is Nigeria- using Femi Osofisan’s (2006)Women of Owu (an adaptation of Euripedes’ Trojan Women).

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