A Critique of Tess Onwueme’s Tell It to Women

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In Tess Onwueme’s play Tell It To Women, we travel back to a Nigerian village in postcolonial Africa. The story enlightens the audience about the dichotomy of traditionalism versus modernism and the ways in which different cultures interact. It ends by revealing the true meaning of culture; the real quality in a society that arises from a passion for what is excellent in arts, manners, and customs. Overall, the play discusses the role of women within this Nigerian village and largely examines the conflict of whether it is better to advance with the rest of the world, or to hold on to the traditions that truly make a society independent and beautiful.

The play begins with Yemoja, the most important woman in the village, in a house with Daisy and Ruth, two feminist western-educated scholars. They are the primary antagonists in the play. At this early stage, we see that Daisy and Ruth are not fond of Yemoja. Daisy and Ruth are leaders of the “Better Life for Rural Women” campaign, which inspires women to believe that they are not only equal to men in many ways, but are even superior in others. The two of them select Yemoja as the mediator between the village and the western world that they are so desperate to force upon the women. The movement causes a great disturbance in the village between the men and women, and especially with Yemoja’s husband and father. Back in Daisy’s home, she has been getting into many disagreements with her family. Her husband Okei, disagrees with her passion about the feminist movement and they frequently fight about it. Her mother-in-law, Sherifat, still encourages Yemoja to participate in the village’s traditional tribal rituals. Sherifat expresses that it would a terrible fate if Yemoja attempts to assimilate to the modern culture and loses her roots. As the story goes on, Daisy becomes estranged from her daughter Bose, as Bose is beginning to understand more and more the culture of the village and becomes closer to...
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