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I use fiction, poetry to challenge gender violence, social ills -Shari Egbuchulem

Adeze Ojukwu

A recent chat with Nigerian-born author and poet, Ms. Shari Egbuchulem was very engaging and enlightening.

Egbuchulem is a budding creative writer icon, with several literary works in her stable.

They are quite captivating and punchy, because she uses them to social ills, gender related violence and other challenges across society. See the opening lines of Ngọzi Whoever She Was.

Someone named Ngozi had just left her husband. At least, that was what I heard mother say, as she stood stiffly, stirring her pot on fire. The savory stew she cooked simmered, as if it too was as enraged as she was. Perhaps it was, perhaps she was telepathic, perhaps she had transferred her aggression to  it.

The deft skills of the youthful minstrel were equally displayed in The Master’s Slave Wife. See excerpts below.

The Master, however took no pity;Even as the illness took its toll and left her feeble, he seemed hellbent to sap her of the only strength she had left. Indeed, she failed to realize, or maybe she did but couldn’t resist giving in, for he was her Achilles heel; In the end, her doom. She had spent her life catering for him, and got nothing in return; Not even his gratitude, for his love was a reward best imagined. He knew not what the word meant.

Clearly, it was a delight to read and review these profound  publications.

This is particularly so, because most young people in Nigeria and other developing countries tend to shy away from the literary world.

Generally the emergence of internet and digital technologies, seem to displace  the culture of reading.

Therefore, Shari’s passion for poetry and creative writing is highly surprising and commendable.

She spoke extensively about her genre, inspiration and style. ‘Both Ngọzi Whoever She Was and The Master’s Slave Wife were written and published in 2018. I am publishing short stories and poems online because the online reading culture provides for a wider reach.’

‘My target audience is literally anyone interested in reading and, who finds my work resonating. For now I only have a few published pieces, so sharing hasn’t posed a challenge. The online reading community remains my target in the meantime. I am gladdened by all my avid readers. So far I have received some significant feedback, but I really wish for more.’

‘The subject matter of both pieces is women abuse. The rationale for choosing these themes is because  the numerous police reports and media accounts show that Gender-Based Violence(GBV) is escalating in across several communities.

‘From all indications the social safety facilities and judicial interventions are inadequate. A lot more needs to be done by government and institutions to tackle this menace.’

‘My writing style varies with different projects. For instance the language of the short story, was both narrative and expository. The poem, however, was a straight narrative.’

‘I personally love engaging metaphors and personifications for logical innuendos. I have a host of favourite authors, notably Marlon James, Isabel Allende, Colson Whitehead, but the  chief among them remains Chimamanda Adichie for prose.’

‘I really appreciate their talent and creativity. Their ability to tell relatable stories and also depict reality of humanism through fiction are amazing. For now I have no favourites for poetry. Most poems I read are often interesting and  inspirational.’

The young writer has a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master of Arts in International Law and International Relations.

She considers herself a bibliophile, a lover of books  and a logophile, a lover of words. The budding wordsmith hopes to publish a collection of short stories someday.

Essentially, she wrote  the duo, to address the plight of women in society. In line with her advocacy, the plots are all woven around females, in domestic settings.

This fiction of about 1500 words, is one of several works churned out by this author. The piece is an intense account of a young woman, whose abusive marriage led her to an early grave.

She had no safe haven nor help, and was forced to endure the violence, until her life was taken away. Major themes of the story include cognitive dissonance, women abuse, religious bias, normalized psychological abuse, including Stockholm Syndrome.

The objective of this story is to draw focus to the plight of women living with abusive husbands and partners. It captures the harsh realities that confront millions of women in society.

Though domestic abuse is prevalent in most  communities in Nigeria,  shaming of victims is equally, if not more, common than imagined. It is sad to note that this violation also emanates from women.

Through these pronounced negative actions by women, they inadvertently promote male domination and systematic oppression of the “weaker” gender in private and public spheres.

The author employed the first-person narrative technique, doubling, as both a narrator and third party character, in conveying the dramatic picture of her inner recesses.

Set in the 21st century, she leaves no one in doubt about her sheer disgust for the unjustifiable and antiquated customs and norms that dehumanize, which oftentimes, destroy the lives of females, right from the womb to adulthood.

Being a woman, she is sympathetic with her characters. She may have embraced this posture, from years of exposure to various harsh experiences in the social, political and cultural environment, which cumulatively force women to bear a disproportionate burden of violence because of their gender.

Any way, these incidences, along with their risks and dangers are too apparent in cities and communities alike, to ignore in these climes, rooted in patriarchy and male-chauvinism.

It is not surprising that the novelist-cum- activist is very angry by the nonchalance or perhaps, apparent failure of religious and traditional leaders to address this ugly trend.

However, Shari, is obviously undeterred by this aberration.

She turns to art, as a platform to spur a new consciousness and about this menace. This is typical of most artists, notably Prof Wole Soyinka, Chimamnda Adichie, who became activists and social transformers.

The famous novelists, used diverse art forms to promote positive change in the country. Just like these literary icons, Shari’s passion for  change is what is most important. Whether she succeeds or not is immaterial.

This is reflected in her style. She deploys a non-cryptic diction, leaning heavily on metaphors and alliteration. True to her thematic inclinations, the mood is generally pensive and gloomy.

From their attitude and discussions, the female characters exhibited bitterness. The display of unwarranted righteous indignation, by these offended ladies, reflect the irony and unfortunate roles of females in enabling and intensifying the suffering of fellow women.

Her words: ‘The short fiction is written especially for the community of women, villains, victims and victors. The pool also includes oppressors, oppressed and overcomers. As a creative writer, perhaps my biggest challenge would be ensuring that a mentally drafted story is appropriately conveyed in written text.’

This story is highly recommended for its contemporary focus and appeal. Find below the link to the fiction.

https://blog.okadabooks.com/ngozi-whoever-she-was-short-story/

The delivery of  the poem, was quite breezy and prosaic.

Created with a sense of  urgency, the poet wasted no time, dwelling on unnecessary preamble.

The agitation in the artist’s heart for justice and freedom for the weak and vulnerable is clearly visible from the opening lines of the poem.

Her major is on domestic abuse. She also took a swipe on narcissism and all forms of atrocities heaped on women, because of their vulnerabilities.

Two messages stand out  in this literature: ‘Suffering is not always a virtue’ and ‘Better is not guaranteed if you do not fight for it.’

In the views of the budding poet, ‘women need to fight for a new status quo. The poem is written in the third person narrative and set in the modern ambience of the 21st century.

Laced with emotions of pain, loss and death, the tone is suffused with melancholy. It is scripted, as an advocacy for women, who are contending with  abusive relationships and the discriminatory practices upheld by religion and tradition.

Shari revealed her biggest challenge, in her poetry adventure.  ‘Condensation of words to meet  limits.’

For a better appreciation of this beautiful and soul-stirring poem, kindly follow the link below:

https://blog.okadabooks.com/masters-slave-wife-poetry/

.Ojukwu, a journalist and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship,  published this literary review, as part of her passion for youth empowerment and commitment to the Campaign Against all Discriminatory Practices Against Women(CEDAW). Send feedback to [email protected]

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