THE CONTEST… A GIFT TO GLOBAL PEACE
THE Contest, a stage play, which was presented to the public last weekend and would be shown again from today till Sunday, January 2, 2011 at the National Theatre, underscores the importance of exercising restraint in taking decisions on national and international issues.
Written and directed by Mike Anyawu, the play centres on the relationship between two young lovers — Amatu of Owame and Archibong of Efut — two communities in Nuriage clan having strained relations over the ownership of Minjisuku Creeks and Peninsular.
The relationship of the two lovers faces a challenge when Amatu emerged the most beautiful maiden in Owame. As a result of this, any suitor seeking her hand in marriage has to undergo a wrestling contest in which the winner takes her as wife. To keep to the tradition of the land, a week was set aside for the contest. Representatives of the neighbouring communities interested in Amatu were represented with the exclusion of Archibong's community, Efut.
The intriguing conflict arises when the young lover Archibong lures Amatu out of her seclusion, but fails to persuade her to elope with him. In what appears like being desperate, Archibong throws caution to the winds and makes a final appearance on the final day of the 'Holy Week', and throws an open challenge on Karibo, the winner of the contest. In the ensuing confusion and complication Amatu faints; falling into strange illness on seeing her secret lover disrupt the climax of their yearly festival.
This disruption leaves the final ceremonies of the festival inconclusive. As it is customary, no further human activities — trading, farming or others — can take place until the final rite of marriage and fertility are concluded between the bride and the winner of the contest.
Though, after much politicking and in obedience to the god of the land, the two warring communities — Owame and Efut — left their difference and allowed Archibong to fight Karibo, champion of the wrestling match. In a highly competitive wresting bout, Archibong defeated him and final married Amatu his heartthrob.
Hinging the thematic trust of the play on love, good neighbourliness, peace and unity, Anyawu lavishly used beautiful costumes and theatrics such as songs and dances as well as masquerades to sew each acts together.
In teaching the world to be cautious in taking decisions and learning to exhaust all peaceful diplomatic means in any situation before going to war, the playwright cheaply give out women as a laurel to be contested for. For outside Oruene, the priestess of Owame, the caretaker of Amatu, the bride of the Owame, no important role is assigned to any woman in the palaces of the warring communities. This becomes worrisome as the Niger Delta, which is the cynosure of the play gives high premium to women when it comes to issues of such magnitude; Anyawu seems to forget in a hurry the roles of the various traditional women groups that can even dethrone the Amanayanabos or Obongs in such communities.
Though, owing to tensed situation of the communities, issues were treated in quick succession and in apprehension; this mood was overplayed, showcasing machismo and giving the impression that the chiefs of Efut and Owame were more powerful at making decisions concerning the land; for the two kings should have been the ones to suggest what to do in a summation of ideas got from the chiefs and the revise not it being the case.
The playwright also portrays Archibong as alone ranger by denying him the paraphilia of office — the escorts — due an heir apparent to the Obong.
Anyawu, in spinning the various themes around the love story of Amatu and Archibong does not rule out the hand of God in human activities and calls leaders to go back to Him at any trying periods of their nationhood.
Highlighting that power is not everything as depicted with the defeat of Karibo, the contest champion, Anyawu establishes that size is not might and states that love and good neigbhourliness are the fulcrum to achieving global peace.