ZAINAB JALO DECRIES WOES OF NIGERIAN WOMEN
Onions Make us Cry (Livelibooks, London, 2009), which featured in the February 25 edition of Rainbow Book Club reading, is a play about domestic violence and its effects. It is set in ward 6 in a hospital or more specifically in 'the first room of ward six.' At first glance, the hospital seems like an unlikely setting for a play on domestic violence until you think of domestic violence as a disease for which a cure must be sought.
The two major characters in the play are women suffering varying degrees of domestic violence; Malinda Jandayi is a patient at the hospital suffering from post traumatic stress disorder having killed her abusive husband by striking him with a pestle. She is in the hospital for evaluation as she awaits her trial for homicide. Lola Gambari, a clinical psychologist at the hospital and Malinda's psychiatrist, is also a victim of domestic violence but when we first meet her, she is in denial about her situation, making up all sorts of excuses to cover up the abuse, especially from her patient's prying questions and comments leading Malinda to make the statement from which the play gets its title '… it's the onions that make us weep…'In what appears to be a reversal of roles, Malinda is able to accurately diagnose Lola's problem, seeing past her excuses, denials, fear and administering a cold dose of reality: 'You stare at yourself each time you come here. Except of course, you didn't slay anyone… not yet at least…you fear it won't get to that eh? …you yearn for my company yet you despise it. You are frightened; me or anyone else will see through you…sadly your worst fears are being borne out… wouldn't even let your best friend know…cos every union should be heavenly…a haven, glorious eh? Wrong! Untrue!' (P. 32).
In the end, Malinda empowers Lola to face up to her situation and stand up for herself. Lola and her husband agree to seek counseling, yet, as a counselor Lola, doesn't appear to help Malinda. Malinda is disillusioned in marriage; the hospital that is to evaluate her and supposedly help her instead makes her worse, because everyone around her is 'mad.' Finally, her lawyer cannot offer any hope that she'll get her kids back, let alone be acquitted. Domestic violence is a complex issue with no simple solutions and Jallo does not set out to offer the audience any.
•Daniella Menezor is a member Rainbow Book Club.