The right to be ordinary
Festival of Short Films
Featured Films: Bariga Sugar (Ifeoma Chukwuogo), Through Her Eyes ( Nadine Ibrahim), Face of Defiance (Leyla Hussein)
Moderator: Arit Okpo
The right to be ordinary—mundane—in the face of adversity was the object of the Friday’s showcase of short films. The right to be ordinary, of course, derives from acceptance—and a consequent transcendence—of one’s supposedly exceptional circumstances. Sex workers have loves, have scrapes and bear offspring who desire friendships. When Jamil dies and Bariga Sugar cuts to credits, not a few eyes in Cinema Hall were glazed over with the beginning of tears.
Look, we’ve been subjected to genital mutilation, Leyla Hussein’s Face of Defiance points out, but the fact doesn’t make us any less human, any less creatures of desire. We laugh, we cry, we fall sick, recover, we jazz june, we real cool, we wack too. We are as ordinary as anyone else.
Two days after Ake Festival 2017 ended, we were reminded of the reality reflected in Nadine Ibrahim’s fiction. A teenage boy blew himself up in Mubi, killing at least 30 people. Through Her Eyes was Ibrahim’s attempt to understand the psychology of a child suicide bomber, this time female.
We’ve come to expect that the girls, sometimes as young as five, who blow themselves up on the orders of Boko Haram overlords have been brainwashed, deceived or blackmailed into the act. We’ve read of girls who alert security forces to the plosive baggage they carry. Some of these bombs, we’ve read, have been defused, their wearers rescued and rehabilitated. Aziza, Ibrahim’s protagonist, presents a different conundrum.
Aziza’s brand of acceptance is harrowing. She has quite obviously not succumbed to blackmail, deception or ideology, neither will she consider not carrying through her task. When the taxi driver bearing her to her target plays the Qur’an through his car stereo, Aziza asks him to turn it off. There is something more substantial at work here, something more sinister. She understands what she must do, understands what will happen when she does it, and is completely at peace with what is to come.
Ibrahim employs flashbacks—of traumatic terrorist events Aziza has suffered through—to portray a tearing Aziza as conflicted as she makes her way to her eventual target. There’s some dissonance here. In the real sense, that Aziza will detonate her bomb is never in doubt. When she learns that her taxi driver’s child died at the scene of a suicide bombing, she remains unfazed, maintaining a grim focus on the dastardly task at hand.
Bad things have happened to her and she doesn’t understand why they do. She has asked but the meaning of life eludes her. Or perhaps it doesn’t. The answer to that question, and the one before it, unfortunately, coincide with the motives of the terrorists: it’s all meaningless anyway, and it will end one way or another.