The Cut- Talking FGM with Christina Oshunniyi
Arts and Culture
We still cut. Were you aware? Did you know that in some parts of Nigeria, girls are still forcibly held down and their labia sliced off to control their sexual urges or to render them marriageable? Did you know we used to cut? Ask the older women around you and you might be surprised when they start to tell stories.
The Cut, a new play by British/Nigerian actress Christina Oshunniyi to be shown as part of the Lagos Theatre Festival, explores the issues around Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Why did you choose to write a play about FGM?
About ten years ago, I went for an audition about a woman whose husband wanted her to be circumcised before she got married. I asked my mum about it, then my mum said she had been cut. Can you imagine, here in Nigeria?
I only wasn’t cut because my mum didn’t feel I needed to be. After that I started researching about it and working in the UK with charity organisations like Forward UK who work on gender issues. I wrote a little skit that I performed at their conferences including FGM conferences to raise awareness. Over the years, I became more passionate about it. I use the arts as a tool to highlight the effects of FGM on the physical and psychological.
Are girls still being cut in Nigeria?
Yes. The percentage has dropped but it’s still happening in rural parts.
Why do you think it’s still practiced?
It’s part of the culture. Women have grown up in it. Their mothers and grandparents have so it’s a practice that is repeated. In terms of education, the women feel they have to do it, trying to tell girls that to be women they have to go through this practice, when it isn’t necessarily so. Women say they need to do it for the men but some men don’t even know it’s happening.
What is the premise of the play?
Kehinde is unhappily married and to be able to move on in the marriage she has to be able to deal with her past to move forward. I don’t want to give too much away. She has counselling to help unlock the family secret that will help her move forward.
What do you want people to take away from the play?
I want people to be aware of what FGM is and how it can mentally, physically and sexually affect a woman’s overall well-being. March 6th is International Womens’ Day, I’m also doing it in conjunction with that.
What is your own story?
Although I was born in the UK, I came to live in Lagos from the age of five until I was 14 and always felt a connection to Nigeria. After my many travels, I still felt at home here and I decided that I would come over. I’m familiar with the place and have family here so I wanted to try to settle at home.
We spotted you in First Stars, the competitive reality show where young Nigerian filmmakers battle it out, under the mentorship of Nollywood’s best for the opportunity to produce their very own feature film. How was that experience?
I was the runner-up in the acting category. I have acted in the UK but it was my first introduction into the movie industry in Nigeria. It was my first experience to meet new talent and work with new producers and give the audience a snippet into my abilities as an actress.
What’s next for you after this?
Fingers crossed a couple of theatre projects and television.
The Cut is just one of many shows from Nigeria, UK, USA and South Africa being performed at the Lagos Theatre Festival 2017 under the theme Rhythm of the City. The festival runs from Tuesday 28th February until 5th March at over 20 venues and is free to attend. For the full line-up and further info, visit https://www.britishcouncil.org.ng/lagos-theatre-festival-2017-performances.