Honouring The Trailblazing Legacy Of Ifeoma Fafunwa: Driving Social Change Through Performance Art

by Duchess Magazine
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“If they looked at the stolen money the same way they looked at rapists and murderers then corruption would reduce.” – Ifeoma Fafunwa.

With the vision of leveraging on the power of art to drive social change specifically empowering the Nigerian woman, Award-winning Social Impact Theatre-Maker Ifeoma Fafunwa founder of production company, iOpenEye, where she also serves as creative director has distinguished herself as a leading voice of change.

Boasting over twenty years of creative collaborative experience on projects in theatre, architecture, film, and fine art in the US and Nigeria, Fafunwa lends expertise to powering groundbreaking theatre projects speaking up against violence against women. She is noted for her signature play ‘Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True, a collection of monologues based on true-life stories of Nigerian women, aimed at challenging social, cultural, and political norms shortchanging the contribution of the womenfolk.

“The story of women is so important because women, right now, are what we have not tried for Nigeria. Women are what we need in terms of their involvement. Unfortunately, women are not effective, they are not engaged in the proper things. They are waiting for permission and husband. It is critical, we are in a state of emergency, Nigeria is at war with itself, it’s eating itself up from the inside, so we need women to stop waiting for men to give permission and get to work. I’m not saying that it’s only women that are going to do it, I am saying they need to balance out the insensitivities that are happening around the Nigerian future. Women are the nurturers of society around the globe. Women, nurture your society!”

She recalls having fallen in love with theatre through the play For Coloured Girls Who Have Committed Suicide When The Rainbow Is Not Enough, which she saw in New York City in 1982.

The renowned director has showcased her work at the American Repertory Theatre in Boston, British Council’s Lagos Theatre Festival, and the Tate Modern.

Ifeoma penned the one-woman show Eggs and Fleas, which bagged nomination by the Los Angeles Weekly for Best Solo Performance Work. In 2012, she directed one of Nigeria’s cultural submissions for the London Olympics, and in 2014 she participated in the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). In 2016, HEAR WORD! premiered internationally in Cambridge with support from Harvard University and the American Repertory Theatre, and then was staged at the Frascati Theatre in Amsterdam.

Born to an American mum and Nigerian dad, after attending Holy Child College, Ikoyi, Lagos, she left the shores of Nigeria at age 16. While studying Architecture in America, she juggled acting classes.
Upon her return to Nigeria, many thanks to marriage to a Nigerian man, she first directed The Vagina Monologues and hasn’t looked back ever since.

Inspired by the need to spark up the theatre world upon noticing just a few people were into plays while everything was about film in Nigeria, she sort to improve that. That drive begat the seed to iOpenEye but it will take ten more years to be fulfilled.

Ifeoma Fafunwa is not one to mince words, addressing societal ills such as corruption and sexism through her art.

She is currently the Mary I. Bunting Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute and is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

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