The critically acclaimed Nigerian production of HEAR WORD! Naija Women Talk True directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa made its international premiere on April 15th, 2016 at the Harvard Dance Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The production was proudly presented by the Center for African Studies in association with the American Repertory Theater, the Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard Dance Center, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Theater, Dance & Media Concentration at Harvard University.
The four scheduled performances of HEAR WORD! were sold out, and brought together members of the local African diaspora with Harvard students, faculty, and staff, Cambridge theater-goers, students and faculty from Boston University and Bunker Hill Community College, and a sizable contingent of Nigerian women who flew in from Lagos to join the celebration. The two-week engagement of the acclaimed play also included class visits, pop-ups and panel discussions with the cast, director, and experts from Harvard University.
Ms. Ifeoma Fafunwa, the play’s creator, was appointed a Visiting Scholar at Radcliffe for the duration of her visit to Harvard. She and her performers were featured at the A.R.T. of Human Rights (A.R.T. and the Carr Center for Human Rights), Harvard Law School’s course on “Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice,” Theater Dance and Media’s course on “The Art of Storytelling,” and the A.R.T. Institute, a graduate theater training program. Additionally, 14 undergraduate and graduate students from across campus took time out of their schedules to volunteer at these events and interact with the performers.
The Center for African Studies was enormously proud to collaborate with so many committed and passionate colleagues across campus and in Nigeria on this initiative.
HEAR WORD! is a powerful piece of performance art that combines artistry, social commentary, and true-life stories of inequality and transformation, delivered by some of Nigeria’s most talented actresses. The stories are based on real issues affecting the lives of women across Nigeria and examine the factors that limit their potential for independence, leadership, and meaningful contribution. HEAR WORD! bravely examines the cultural and societal norms that oppress and limit African women as it invites women to break the culture of silence, unite, challenge the status quo, and create solutions.
HEAR WORD! is directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa and stars Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Joke Silva, Bimbo Akintola, Omonor, Elvina Ibru, Ufuoma McDermott, Zara Udofia-Ejoh, Odenike, Rita Edward, and Debbie Ohiri. It also features some adapted monologues made available by the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND).
Ifeoma Fafunwa is the founder and creative director of iOpenEye, a Nigerian production company formed in 2014, which utilizes performance art to drive social change. She has over 20 years of creative collaborative experience on projects in theatre, architecture, film and fine art in the U.S. and Nigeria. Her work in theatre includes directing The Vagina Monologues and a number of plays by contemporary Nigerian writers including Not My Affair, The Naming Ceremony, Digging for Gold, and Diagnosis for the British Council’s Lagos Theatre Festival. She wrote and performed the one-woman show, Eggs and Fleas, which was nominated by the Los Angeles Weekly for best solo performance. In 2012 Ifeoma directed Nigeria’s cultural submission for the London Olympics and in 2014 she participated in the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). In April she will be a visiting scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and runs a pro-bono performance art workshop building capacity for young female performers and university students in Nigeria. She currently lives in Lagos and is married with four children.
Taiwo Ajai-Lycett trained at the City Literary Institute, the Dance Centre, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Her film credits include A Warm December, starring and directed by Sidney Poitier, television credits include the BBC’s “Some Mothers Do ‘Ve ‘Em”, “Crown Court”, and numerous soap operas. Ms. Ajai-Lycett was honored with an OON (Officer of The Order of the Niger) in 2006 by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. She is also a Fellow of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists. She founded Talhouse Private Schools and the Taiwo Ajai Lycett Arts Academy, for the promotion of the arts and the training and nurturing of young Nigerian artists.
Joke Silva, an award winning actress and producer, was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. She performed at the Royal Court Theatre while studying Dramatic Arts at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in the early 80’s. She has been featured in several BBC Africa radio dramas and in many award-winning films such as The Secret Laughter Of Women, Phone Swap, Tango With Me, and White Waters, to name a few. Besides her career as a performer, Joke co-owns Lufodo Productions, which curated Nigeria’s cultural submission at the Royal Stratford for the 2012 Olympics. Joke is the United Nations Goodwill ambassador for Trafficking in Persons and is active with the Freedom Foundation’s Nigerian Womens’ Network.
Bimbo Akintola is one of the most versatile character actors in the Nollywood movie industry. From an early age she knew she loved acting and her passion led her to the University of Ibadan, Nigeria where she received a National Diploma Certificate and a first degree in Theatre Arts. Bimbo has starred in many Nollywood films including The Diamond Ring, Dangerous Twins, 90Ninth Day, Hoodrush, and Heaven’s Hell. She has received several awards and nominations for her work including her nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 2013 Nollywood Movies Awards. She recently finished filming 93 Days, a film about the Nigerian heroes of the Ebola outbreak, which stars Danny Glover.
Omonor is an actor, stage director and a stage-acting and elocution instructor with a career spanning thirteen years. She is a graduate of the University Of Lagos, Nigeria, with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry. Her real love however is acting and she began her training with the renowned Theatre 15 group. She has performed major roles onstage in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. She was awarded Best Actor, The Future Awards Nigeria in 2007. Notable stage performances include the critically acclaimed HEAR WORD!, Daniel, V Monologues: The Nigerian Story, Iya Ile, The Vagina Monologues, Fear Abides With Me Constantly, Home, and she performed the role of Sidi in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel in the UK. Television credits include “Wetin Dey”, “Twilight Zone”, and “Against All Odds”. Stage director credits include The Wakeby, The Honeymoon Hotel, Mine, and Chronicle of Heroines.
Elvina Ibru is an artistic director, musical director, writer, producer and choreographer. She has worked in show business since she was eight, including live performance, broadcasting, script writing, and directing with 15 years of focus on the production of documentaries, television programs, and feature films. She graduated with honors from the London Academy of Performing Arts and earned a B.A in international relations from Webster University, London. She shared the stage with Jude Law and Johnny Lee Miller at the National Youth Music Theatre, England, and has performed on London’s West End. Currently she is an On Air Personality with Nigeria’s foremost radio station, Classic FM 97.3, where she hosts the popular radio show “Mellow Magic.”
Ufuoma McDermott is an actor and filmmaker who has performed on stage, television, and films. In 2010 she was nominated alongside Tina Fey, January Jones, and Jane Krakowski as best actress at the 50th Monte Carlo TV Festival (The Nymph Award). Other nods include the Future Award, Terracotta Awards, and the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. With over 12 years of industry practice, Ufuoma has worked with the industry’s best and has been featured in over 50 movies and 4 television series. She has a Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs, a certificate in Acting from the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, and a certificate from the London Business School. She studied directing at The Relativity School in Los Angeles, and the Hollywood Film Institute. As a producer and director, she won accolades for her work including an AMVCA nod for her short film Jungle Jewel. She has produced for TV as well as short films, and the feature film What Just Happened.
Zara Udofia-Ejoh has performed on radio, TV, film and theatre, including Askari, A Horse On My Back (Lagos and German tour), Andorra Goes Kinshasa (Lagos and German tour), Things Fall Apart (world tour ’99, COJA-2003), Sense Of Belonging (Royal National Theatre Studios-London), The Merchant of Venice, Murder in the Cathedral, The Voyage (London), Vagina Monologues, Heartbeat, Kakadu The Musical, Wrath, and most recently, HEAR WORD! Zara was the choreographer for “Project Fame West Africa: Season 2”, the Cultural Olympiad productions of the 2012 London Olympics, and is a movement and dance instructor at Lufodo Academy for Performing Arts. She is a Consultant and Artistic Director for Action Health Incorporated’s Teenage Festival of Life 2008, 2012-2015.
Odenike is an actor, model and voice-over artist. She has been featured in film, TV, radio dramas, commercials and several stage productions. Her stage credits include: Wole Soyinka’s Childe Internationale, The Jero Plays, The Lion and the Jewel, Ahmed Yerima’s The Wives, The V Monologues, and HEAR WORD! Her film and television credits include Lunch Time Heroes, ZR7, Ojos House, and Tales of Eve, among others. Odenike was one of the five finalists of “Nigeria for The Spirited Actor — the Search for Africa’s next Hollywood Star,” a reality TV show filmed in the USA. She is a graduate of the University of Lagos.
Rita Edward is a Nigerian born actor. Her work for stage and films includes HEAR WORD! 93 Days, Misfit, The Arrangement, and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. She is a character actor who has honed her skills through several acting workshops including programs by iOpenEye and the British Council. She was a nominee at the Nollywood Movies Awards 2014. When she is not working on a stage production or a film set Rita loves voice acting and creating jingles. One of her greatest desires is to voice an animated character for Walt Disney Pictures.
Debbie Ohiri is an actor and folk musician with a career spanning a decade. She was born in the late 80’s to a Ghanaian mother and a world-renowned guitar maestro, Bob Ohiri. Debbie has performed in groundbreaking theater productions like HEAR WORD!, Saro, The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, Olofin Ajaye, Oya, Ajigbe (European tour) and Waiting for a Lottery (Lagos Theatre Festival). She has worked with music giants Tony Allen (Afrobeat legend), Orlando Julius Ekemode, Omawumi, Black Magic, and Eva. Debbie was a top finalist on “MTN Project Fame West Africa Season 8”. She is an undergraduate at the National Open University of Nigeria.
Drummer Blessing Akpofure, locally nicknamed Kaco-man, for the sound of the drum, comes from Delta State in Nigeria. He is a prolific seasoned percussionist and a musician with two decades of experience. Blessing has worked with notable directors and choreographers in Nigeria and abroad. Some of his recent works include HEAR WORD!, Saro The Musical, Wakaa The Musical, London Life Lagos Living, Ajai, Tanzhab Kempten (Germany), Centenary Flag Off (Dubai), Masquerade Festival (Burkina Faso), Baare Festival (Togo), Terra@10, Span@10, among others. He won the “Best Dance Drummer Awarded by Guild Of Nigerian Dancers and is presently Percussion Instructor for Squad 1 Productions.
Drummer Emeka Anokwuru is from Imo State in the eastern part of Nigeria. His love for percussion instruments started from childhood and for the last two decades he has made a career of it. Emeka loves merging rhythms and abstract sounds into musical compositions. Some of his recent performances include HEAR WORD!, SARO The Musical, Wakaa The Musical, Nigeria Centenary Exhibition Dubai UAE, and Choregraphie et Composition Musicale La Togo. Emeka is the Assistant Coordinator of Squad 1 Productions.
Pulse Nigeria, Nigerian stage play set to show at Harvard
The Nation, ‘Hear Word!’goes on World Tour
Color Magazine, Universal Message Found in HEAR WORD!
Harvard Gazette, Real talk: Telling Nigerian women’s stories
The Boston Globe, Through theater, Nigerian women ‘talk true’ to men
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