As a child, I got impressions of “women and gender” issues through certain incidents and events. I did not hear that women were inferior to men, but I kind of sensed that some people thought so. Here are some gender incidents from my childhood memory.


Boys School

I was attending Eke Convent School, an all-girls’ primary school, when my parents decided to withdraw me. They sent me to a boys’ school so that I would be better prepared to compete for entrance examinations to high schools. My father was a teacher and headmaster, so he knew better in such matters. Nonetheless it gave me the impression that boys’ schools were better than girls’ schools.

I got good grades in the girls’ school. It was not a big deal. The girls liked me. I had many friends. In the boys' school, we had a test every Friday. The result came out on Monday and we had to sit in class according to the grades we earned. I got the best grade. The teacher placed me on the prime seat. One particular boy, Doherty, “began to find my trouble.” I did not know what I did to annoy him, but I felt the resentment. He would talk with some boys, and they would laugh and look at me. It was all confusing to me. Then one day, on a Friday, it happened.

School was over. The headteacher was giving the final address before dismissal. Doherty and his group were laughing and looking at me. He passed beside me and used his elbow to nudge me. They laughed. My heart pounded. He passed again and did the same thing. My play mates always said that “Ihe lukwe-e na nk’ ito oto” (When something reaches the third point it sticks). Many tales conveyed the impression of three as the vital point. I don’t know whether it was the magic of the third number or that my adrenalin had pumped up, but it happened on the third.

He used his leg to nudge my leg and I heard the laughter of his friends. That was it - the final point. I pushed him. A la boys’ style, he started prancing like Mohammed Ali and gave me jabs. I bent down and collected his two legs. He went down; flat on the floor. The boys cheered! I won! He did not come to school for one week; he was ashamed. The boys began to accept me.

Funny, I got their respect from whopping a boy not from getting good grades. Doherty also accepted that the first seat did not belong to him and that the new girl could also win it and sit on it.


Keep your distance from my daughter

We heard the sound of a masquerade. Non-initiates including all women would watch from a distance in Eke town (Enugu State). I was about eight years’ old and always hung with my playmates from our compound. We were six: Vicky and her brothers Anthony and Charlie, me and my brothers Anthony and Pat. Augustine was in his early teens so he oversaw our group, told us stories, settled our quarrels, and thought us how to draw and paint. When the two Anthonys ran to the road to enjoy a chasing game with the masquerade, I also joined them. Vicky, Charlie and Pat did not come. When the masquerade came after the crowd, we ran. That was the fun. I did not question why majority of women would stay at a distance. I thought that they could not run fast as I did. As for the girls, like Vicky; I thought that they were just too afraid. The three of us (Tony Enu, Tony Okafor and me)  were afraid too, but pretending not to be afraid and running were part of the fun.

On this particular day, the three of us ran as the masquerade approached. One big boy ran after me. I was fast. I ran through the side gate of our compound. The boy ran after me. I ran into the kitchen area (the kitchen was a small house of three rooms on the southwest side of the main house). He came after me.  I ran straight into the yam barn on the southeast end of the kitchen yard. He was at my heels. There was nowhere else to run to. The barn had one door. I began to scream.
Hapu mu! Leave me!”
My father heard my voice and shouted from the main house.
O gini! What is it?”
The boy left me and ran out.

For me it was over, but for my parents, it was not. They involved the boy’s parents.
The boy’s mother said, “My son was just playing with her.”
“He’s a big boy. My daughter is just a little girl. He is not her play mate,” my mother said.
“She was not playing. I heard her screaming, ‘leave me, leave me,” my father said.
My mother was on her way to the magistrate court when Nna-a Aniago, the community elder, intervened and the boy henceforth kept his distance from me.

As an adult, I understand that there are some boys with weird approach to gaining the respect of girls. When  such a boy likes you, he may try to intimidate you or make you afraid (like take you to a horror movie) so that he can rescue you and you will be beholden to him. So, maybe the big boy that pursued me to the barn was playing a game. On the other hand, as a teacher, auntie and mother, I now understand my parents' take on the matter. A big boy leaving the masquerade fun to pursue a little girl?  A big boy hiding in a barn with a little girl? These can send red flags to any parents.


High School

Most of the great high schools were boys’ schools – they studied science. Most of the girls’ high schools did not study science, maybe domestic science only. It gave the impression that boys and men had the intelligence for the sciences that were considered to be ‘tough.’ All my brothers had the opportunity to study science in high schools and were able to go further to study medicine, chemistry, biology, and engineering. From their non-science schools, my sisters went on to study law and accounting - great subjects too, but my point is that their choice was limited to non-science education availble to them..

Formal education was established by British rulers of Nigeria. The first schools for girls were called Domestic Science schools where young women learnt how to become wives of educated men, so having proper high schools without science subjects was a kind of up-grade from domestic science school of our mothers and grandmothers. Science was later introduced to few girls’ schools. I initially attended a girls’ high school called Rosary High School, Awgu, where we learnt some science. We did not have a science laboratory, so we engaged in something called “alternative to practical,” which entailed the description of how things were done rather than doing them. I later transferred to one of the few girls’ schools that taught science. At Queen’s School, Enugu, we had proper science laboratories.

Exposure to diversity of arts and science subjects gave boys more opportunity to discover their talents. Being confined to the arts limited the scope of girls. The situation has improved a lot and  young women are now found in all professions. There are some States and communities that now have problem with getting boys to enrol in schools.

Do the above anecdotes convey the impression that from childhood, I knew about gender differentiation, 
gender cooperation, male privileging, and female power and struggle even though I could not name them? 
It was much later in universities that I began to appreciate the names and theories that led me to research on women and gender. 

The following are published works in the area of women, masking, literature & theater:

Women, Masking & Theater

      (2010)  Womanhood in Igbo Cosmology: Intersections in Chinua Achebe’s Thing’s Fall Apart.” In Achebe’s Women: Imagism and Power Ed. Helen           Chukwuma Accepted for Publication (Trenton: Africa World Press).

(2009) Female Power: Corner Stone or Central Subject in Igbo Mask Performance.” Emergent Themes and Methods in African Studies: Essays in Honor of Adiele Eberechukwu Afigbo Ed., Falola, T and Adam Paddock. No compensation.  (Trenton: Africa World Press): 431-446

 (2007) “Global encounters: Barbie in Nigerian Agbogho-mmuo mask context.” Journal of African Cultural Studies. Vol. 19, No. 1. 37-54.

(2006) “Terrible Beauty of Masks From Around the World.” Review of MASKS from Around the World by Garth Darl. Vancouver: Granville Island Publishing

(2006)Female Power: Corner Stone or Central Subject in Igbo Mask Performance.” Accepted for publication in a book, A Survey of Igbo Nation edited by G. E. K. Ofomata (University of Nigeria, Nsukka). 

(1997) “Gender Politics in West African Mask Performance.” Writing African Women: Gender, Popular Culture and Literature in West Africa. Ed. Newell, Stephanie (London: Zed Books), pp. 157‑169.

(1996) “The Dramatization of Heroism in Igbo Festivals.” UNISWA Research Journal (Univ. of Swaziland), Vol. 10, pp. 56‑68.

      (1994) "From the Heart of Masculinity: Ogbodo Uke Women's Masking." Research in African Literatures (The Ohio State University), Vol. 25, No. 4,          pp. 7‑17.

(1992) "Power and Empowerment in African Mask Performance." Africa Notes (Cornell University), pp. 8‑9.

(1992) "The Rejected Corner Stone: Women In Igbo Mask Theater." Africana Studies and Research Center Newsletter (Cornell University), Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 19‑23, and 27‑31.

      (1991) “Behind the Inscrutable Wonder: The Dramaturgy of the Mask Performer in Traditional African Society.” Research In African Literatures (The           Ohio State University), Vol. 22, No. 4. pp. 39-52.

Amankulor, J. N. and Okafor, Chinyere G. (1988) "Continuity and Change in Traditional Nigerian Theatre among the Igbo in the Era of Colonial Politics." Ufahamu (University of California, LA), Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 35‑50.

(1986) "Aro Diaspora: A Cultural and Historical Overview." Arochukwu History and Culture. Ed. Ijoma,  J. O. (Enugu: Fourth Dimension), pp. 113‑137.

Women, Literature & Drama

(2008) “Militant Femininity in Southern African Poetry: A Discussion of Selected Poems by Micere Mugo and Gladys Thomas.” In Power and Nationalism. Ed., Falola, Toyin and S. Hassan (Durham: Carolina Academic Press), pp. 435-450.

(2003) "Location and Separateness in African and African-American Drama...” Postcolonial Perspective on Women Writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US. Ed., Japtok, Martin (Trenton: Africa World Press), pp. 319-343.

(2002) “La Litterature africaine et le beauvoirisme: example d’ ‘action’ de femmes et d’ecrivaines” In Delphy, Christine and Sylvia Chaperon, Cinquantenaire Du Deuxieme Sexe (Paris: Syllepse), pp. 259-268.

(2001)  “Beyond Child Abuse.”  In Eye to Eye: Women Practicing Development Across Cultures.  Ed. Schench, Celeste, and Susan Perry (London: Zed Press), pp. 259-276.

(2001)  “Ogini’s Choice: A Novella in Ten parts.” Englishes: Literature Inglesi Contemporanee. No 15 ANNO 5, pp. 105-139.

(2000) “Ogini’s Choice,” Also published In The Quest For Democracy: Writings on Nigerian Literature in English. Ed.  Rosati, F. (Pescara, Italy: Libreria Dell’Universita Editrice), pp. 199-237.

(1998) “Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike” In Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Parekh, Pushpa and Siga Jagne (Westport: Greenwood), pp. 221-227.

(1998) “Festus Ikhuoria Ojeaka Iyayi.” In Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical  Sourcebook. Ed. Parekh, Pushpa and Siga Jagne (Westport: Greenwood), pp. 234-240

(1997) “Rewriting Popular Myths of Female Subordination: Selected Stories by Theodora Adimora‑Ezeigbo and May Ifeoma Nwoye.”  Writing West African Women: Gender, Popular Culture and Literature in West Africa. Ed. Newell, Stephanie (London: Zed Books), pp. 81-94.

(1996) "Theatrical Negotiation of Transformation in No More The Wasted Breed." Femi Osofisan: Interpretative Essays I. Ed. Awodiya,  Muyiwa (Ibadan: Kraft Books), pp. 119-128.

(1995) “Bus Ride With Madam Osaigbovo.” A Story in The Potter and Other Stories (Ibadan: African Studies Publication), pp. 39-51.

 (1994) “Theatrical Construction Of Trial As A Technique in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi." JMLAN: A Publication of the Modern Languages Association of Nigeria, Vol. 2, pp. 58‑64.

(1993) "A Comparative Study of J. P. Clark's The Masquerade and Efua Sutherland's Foriwa." Commonwealth: Essays and Studies (Universite de Bourgogne, France), Vo l. 16, No. 1., pp 89‑95.

(1992) "The Search for Gold Finger." Short Story in The Literary Review (Fairleigh Dickinson University), Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 551-553.

(1990) “: The Man, the Playwright, and the producer on the Nigerian Theater Scene.” World Literature Toda.y  Winter  (1990):24-29.

(1989) "Of Spooks and Virile Men: Patterns of Response to Imperialism in Sizwe Bansi is Dead and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi." Commonwealth: Essays and Studies (Universite de Bourgogne, France), Vol. 2, pp. 87‑93.

Okafor, Chinyere G. (1986) "Ama Ata Aidoo: Anowa" Okike: Educational Supplement, No. 4., pp. 137‑146.                                                               

(1983) "Creating Awareness through Shock Drama: The Example of Osofisan's Four Robbers." Journal of Nigerian Theatre Artistes, Vol. I, No. 1., pp. 9‑16.

 (1981) "A Woman Is Not A Stone but A Human Being: Women in the Plays of Aidoo and Sutherland." Medium and Message (University of Calabar), Vol. 1, pp. 165-177.

(1980) "Parallelism versus Influence in African Literature...." Kiabara: Journal of Humanities (University of Port‑Harcourt), Vol. 1, pp. 113‑131.


Other works and compositions

 (20003) “Gazing At Wide Country.” Poetry and Prose In National Association of Women writers Weekly, September 15.

 (2001) “Foreword.” Achebe the Orator by Chinwe Christianan Okechukwu. Westport: Greenwood press, 2001. 

(2001) “Sire That Yells,” “One Nation,” and “One Tough Head.” In  Englishes:Literature Inglesi Contemporanee (Italy), No 15 ANNO 5,  pp. 103-104.

 (2001) Eight Poems published in the “Arts and Columns” section of The Maine Progressive: a Journal of Politics and Culture. <>

 (2000) “Millenium Note”  with republication of  “Sire That Yells,” “One Nation,” “One Tough  Head.” In Englishes: Literature Inglesi Contemporanee (Italy), No 10 ANNO 4,  pp. 38-40

 (1999) “Chains of Light,” and “My Love Grows in Winter.” TurfWRITE: A Creative Writing  Journal. (South Africa). Vol. 2, pp. 102-103.

 (1997) “Umsenge Tree,” and “Forests of Guava.” Weekend Observer (Swaziland), p. 10.

(1996) “Counter Attack,” and “Maliyaduma Veld.” Poems in Tyume: Fort Hare Journal of Creative Writing (South Africa), No. 1.

(1994) “Mother and Child.” The Evangelist (Nigeria). December. 2 pages.

1994) "Potsherds (for Winnie Mandela)" "Crow After Hen," "For Arthur At Coronation (on the eve of Mandela's inauguration). Poems in Africa Update (CCSU African Studies Newsletter, U.S.A.) No. 3. pp. 6‑7.

“Silver Cross For Dundon.,’ “Tribute…” and “Christmas in the Rains.” Fathers (Periodical Magazine) (Nigeria).

(1993) "Colors of My Country," "From Charles, the Cloths‑Maker," and “Forced Festival." Poems in Images: The Scholar's Release (Salisbury, U.S.A.), 2: 1‑3, pp. 26‑27.

(1993) "Review of Gods, Oracles, and Divinations by Kalu Ogba." Research in African Literatures (The Ohio State University), Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 129‑132.

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