Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Can't get enough of myself

Got mail from a lady I'd never met, It did my ego a world of good. 'Ori mi wu o, e la gi mo (My head swells, Hit me with a stick- Roof Top MCs)

My name is Aderinsola and by the nature of my job (public relations) I get to see the papers everyday & I get to read your 'Girl Whisperer' once in a while. I was particularly amused by the thoroughbred theory and I thought you were another specie male trying to accuse us of what you turned us into.

By the way, I am not a thoroughbred in the sense of your categorization because I defend myself when necessary & never leaves it to anyone to do for me except the big man upstairs.

You know what? That is not the reasopn for this mail. I saw V-monologues at the MUSON on 14th & my heart stopped. It was beautiful. I missed it last year because I was working in a TV station & couldn't see it. But I'm glad I got to see this Nigerian story you directed. Thanks Wole for making my year. I kept raving about it to all my girlfriends & I will by God's grace see it again next time.

At some point I had to question where the actresses got their lines because they were simply magical & magnetic. But when I heard you were the Director, I said 'ah the thoroughbred man.'

Your cast was beautiful & I particularly like the way the V-word was flying around without being obsene.

The star of the night for me was Omonor especially in the trafficked girl's monologue. The lines took me deep into the soul of a trafficked girl. I also loved Ashionye's monologue on maintenance culture even though she was talking more to herself in her monologue on the woman who dared to fight back (that's the category I truly belong).

Kate Henshaw's monologue on women who had ruled in the past was really inspiring and I would have really loved Funmi Iyanda's monologue on 'The Woman Died' but she didn't deliver it well in my opinion (no offence intended please).

On the whole, I left the Agip recital hall of MUSON Centre that day fulfilled, proud, and overwhelmed with the fact that I am a woman and that I've got power that should be used to better the world. Thanks for this special gift. See you again next year. God bless you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by

the Sunday Guardian of March 23


Tonight, as I drive down the quiet, wet Lagos streets, street lamps casting their faint glow on the deserted roads, the headlamps from the occasional car lighting up my vehicle’s interior and then passing on to unknown destinations to leave me in comfortable darkness again, my mind drifts to beautiful things as it does whenever the rains come, for I think it must have rained the day I was born.
I am reminded of beautiful people, girls with beautiful spirits, thoroughbreds whom I have met through the years of my life and tonight, I pay tribute to some of these women who have added joy to my days.

There was the university era and ’yinka, who had a heart of gold and looked out for me. She who called me her “hero”, and now every time I see that word, I remember her still. Olayimika, life, really, is what we make it. At some point in life, we will all look back and with the strength of hindsight, recognize the beauty of those we have met in times gone by and whom we see no more.

And I remember she, whose name translated into “a drop of honey”, and the goodness of her heart. We were classmates and friends, and her purity and goodness were unforced and apparent to all. The only way I can describe her is that she was good, she was gentle, she was kind. She was my friend, this young woman whose name is ’kanyin.

There was ’kemi, whom I met during the orientation camp period of a compulsory youth service year in Akwa Ibom, she who taught me to like the song, “Walk on by” by Dione Warrick. Kemi, gentle, soft-spoken and kind. The computer scientist from a state university who had a keen, keen mind.

I remember the poet, yemisi, who opened like a flower opens it petals as I got to know her. She was funny, she loved life, she was brilliant and she made me laugh. We would talk forever on the phone about poetry, about books, about ourselves, our hopes and dreams. All these women in their different ways, brought sunshine into my life and it is interesting to observe that in all these cases, we did not need physical intimacy to add a beautiful dimension to life that will last for as long as I live.

Of the “fantastic four” recorded here, three of them live abroad now and I muse on how goodness has been dispersed all over the world, by the economy, by necessity, through the betrayal of hope by those who should have done better for this land. The poet, John Burroughs wrote as if he was addressing me- “To his sorrow he learnt this truth/You may return to the place of your birth/You cannot return to your youth/.

But I know that someday, I will have a daughter, bold and beautiful to behold, with keen eyes that radiate the beauty that lies deep inside her. And, on a quiet night, as she and I sit, reading, on a porch, on a veranda, a balcony, I will tell her to come sit on my knees and gaze out at the falling rain with me. And as we look out on the street ahead on that quiet, quiet night, the sound of the rain acting as our backdrop, I shall whisper into her ear. “Listen to me”, I shall say, “...and learn from he who is known as the Whisperer. He who has met women from across the length and breadth of this earth and has been a confidant to a countless number. You must grow up to be yourself, a beautiful woman in your own right, confident of who you are and your capabilities, refusing to be put down by life or circumstances or by any human. You may learn from your mother who brought you into the world, for if she was not a good woman, I would not have gone near her. Humans make many mistakes, but the mistake of allowing the wrong sort partner you in child-birth is one you may never recover from. I have been careful. I have been careful. You be careful too.”

“Therefore, daughter of the Whisperer, learn greatly from she who was the vessel that brought you to this world. But if by some chance you display the traits of these four women who added magic to the life of your father, I shall take no offence. For it is not every angel that has wings. And I have met angels.”

The past is made up of many memories strung together. The trick is to fill it with as many beautiful memories as possible, and to jettison the garbage. Selective amnesia is essential here, for why remember ugly people? A waste of time and hard disc space. This is the Whisperer’s mission, for when he is old and grey, only the beautiful memories must remain.

Friday, March 21, 2008

When The Dust Settles

A Director's Notes

The first run of V. Monologues-The Nigerian Story ended yesterday.

I heard many opinions-

chude jideonwo (The Future Awards) sent a text- "WELL DONE!!!! Dis is the best thing I hav EVER EVER EVER watched in my life. This was genius. Well done Wole. It was TOO MUCH!!!!!" Chude criticizes without sentiment. His comments/write-ups/bust-ups on-line and on the pages of newspapers with art he finds displeasing are legendary.

funmi iyanda called it "sublime".

a gentleman walked up to me after one performance and called it a once-in-a-life time experience. It was humbling to hear such things but maybe the most humbling were the men and the women in the audience who walked up to me after and simply said "Thank you".

2 cities, 5 venues, 6 performances, 6 standing ovations, many congratulations; tearful, laughing, chanting crowds.

It was a mix of several things- superb acting, a superb script and ahem...a superb director.

I am honoured that Hafsat Abiola-Costello and Amy Oyekunle, founder and Executive Director of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) chose me to be Artistic Director for this project. That KIND's accountant, Mr.O was always so forthcoming, that Wynyfred and Peju of KIND let me be myself.
I am glad I chose the proper writers for the Nigerian story- Myself, Tunde Aladese (who also performed), Princess Olufemi-Kayode, Ijeoma Ogwuegbu and the irrepressible blogger- Storm a.k.a. Overwhelmed Naija Babe who was in Nigeria last December/January.
I am pleased I selected the proper actors who did more than I could have hoped for. It was team work on their part, a collective pull.
"It doesn't matter which horse wears the garland as long as the wagon gets to town". We found the town, girls!

I am humbled that audiences responded like they did everywhere.

There was a gentleman who was reported to have written on the internet that it didn't "reflect our values" here. That was said of an abuja performance that had the entire Nigerian audience chanting "more, more" at the end of a 2-hour show. If he indeed wrote that (I didn't bother to look at it), it could be considered a little patronizing. Seeing that he's a white man. Chude was one of those who read that piece and lowered his expectations before seeing the show.
I know people write for varying motives. I cannot be bothered with that cultural expert's for it is either he knows nothing of our people or thinks a Nigerian audience not intelligent enough to appreciate art the way he does.

True Love Magazine in it's April issue has a page on me saying "I am Man of the Moment". The words of Rudyard Kipling come to me at this time- "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat both impostors just the same, then my son, you will be a man". We found triumph in this one. I am glad.

I wrote the stage play, "Anatomy Of a Woman", and have been writing the Girl Whisperer column for the Sunday Guardian for close to a year. And now this. If I had known then, what I know now, that most important of relationships wouldn't have floundered.

But when my first child comes, (don't ask me how I know it will be a girl, I just know. And no. No one's pregnant), I'll tell her- "I worked with some great women in the V Monologues project. When you grow, you must become a V. Warrior too".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of March 16


Many people are fond of the quote by the long-gone poet that says- “Heaven hath no fury like love to hatred turned, nor hell like a woman scorned”. For those with the life-style that makes a doctrine of payback for crimes, real and imagined, they also tell everyone “Vengeance is a dish best eaten cold”. These people, even-tempered and seemingly normal in other matters suddenly turn into Spaniards with the ability to nurse life-long feuds and grudges when it comes to matters of the heart. Unfortunately, it is usually only one heart that has the problem in such cases.

It’s worthy of note that some think it perfectly normal to focus on a figure they think has slighted them, walked away from them, abandoned them, and even years after, turn purple in apoplectic rage, when his or her name is mentioned. A nice woman asked me a while back why some ranting figure (and her friends) had invoked God to pay back a ‘heartbreaker’. I told her it was the height of delusion. The same way footballers of our national team delude themselves when they call on God in full view of the cameras of the world, and on open fields, to save them from humiliating defeats when they are obviously ill trained and unprepared.

To avoid being classified as Spanish mistresses, (The Whisperer’s coinage) let us consider the internal workings of those that might have wronged us. Firstly, in affairs of the heart, you should never have relationships with some people. For you, it might be a relationship of earth-shaking importance, but for the other party in the equation, it might not be an entanglement worthy of being dignified with the word, ‘relationship’. The truth, no matter how saddening it might be, is that some do not consider us worthy of public acknowledgement. It might be for any number of reasons, but primary among this might be that the partner is ashamed of our intellect, of our beauty, of the fact that we speak while we eat, with pieces of mashed-up food clearly visible in our mouths etc. The mistake in this matter is that one partner might think this is the affair of a life-time and worthy to be ranked alongside that of King Edward who left the throne of England for the sake of a woman while the other cringes at the very thought it could be much more than just something to amuse himself or herself at odd times.

In the case of the Whisperer, for example, an education is paramount. There must be a driving force in the issue of attraction, and though you have the beauty of Venus and the wealth of Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea football club, a shortage of grey matter means there really is no relationship, no matter how hard you try.

Now, the partner who has the tendency to turn into a Spaniard must consider whether the other partner lends the same weight and importance to whatever entanglement they are in. If one party considers you unworthy of being considered a person in a proper relationship with him or her, make do with what you have or leave immediately. There are people out there who when they mention the people they have had relationships with in times past, will count the Whisperer as having been one of the number. The Whisperer apologises on behalf of the family of man but it is not everyone you smile at, that registers on the radar and is considered worthy of note.

I read somewhere that that the most important thing in life is to love someone. The second most important thing in life is to have someone love us. The third most important thing in life is to have the two things happening at the same time. Learn from the Whisperer’s creed- “It’s not who you love, it’s who loves you”. Seeking out an object of your fantasy and latching on like a limpet does not guaranty reciprocity. Sometimes, it might be a one-sided thing. Plotting vengeance all the days of your life after the other person is long gone, only makes you appear crazed. There is no one on earth who owes you the responsibility of making you happy. You must overcome your own failings, swallow your pride and find someone who will love you for who you are.

Success is apparently, great incentive for ‘love’ and I have seen that the more successful a person becomes (and success may have as many definitions as you like), the more those who delude themselves they have been cast aside, plot fantastic moments of retribution.
Remember, those who will love us, will love us. If you are not a person’s dream partner, do not become the object of this person’s nightmares. It's a beautiful world, with space enough for us all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Posted this on Thursday the 15th of February last year. Thought I'd revisit.

laspapi's signs you've been away from Naija too long.

1) You stay in hotels when you come home because you suspect your welcome has worn thin with friends and your distant relatives.

2) You come on holiday and walk down the street you grew up on. No one recognizes you apart from the neighbourhood freeloader who spends an hour telling a sob-story so he can sponge off you. You finally give him some money and he asks whether he can get it in dollars.

3) After he’s gone, you find your wallet is missing.

4) You call your Nigerian ‘home-boy’ and his P.A. always picks the phone. You use a number he does not know and home boy picks up the phone himself. You suspect he’s tired of your 58-minute thrice-a-week marathon conversations.

5) You wear a fanny pack everywhere when on holiday.

6) You don’t know the bus-stops.

7) You don’t know the black spots. You attempt to take a stroll down the Marina at 8pm- fanny pack, camera and gold wristwatch in full view.

8) A policeman slaps some poor chap around. You interfere saying “Nigeria is for all of us”.

9) The policeman points his gun at you. You laugh at him with your ‘janded/yankee’ accent, saying “you’re joking, of course”. When he slaps you too, you shout, “I want to speak to your superior”.

10) Every time you see beggars at the beginning of the street, you throw a wad of notes at them. You are surprised when a band of amputees trail you home and wave guns and knives in your face yelling, “where is d dollas, where is d U-ros?”

11) You think ‘Silverbird Galleria’ is a place where they keep exotic birds.

12) You think “Ben Bruce” is a new perfume.

13) You think MBGN stands for a new type of machine gun

14) You tell strangers you catch in conversation on the streets, “your vote counts”.

15) You trustingly tell taxi drivers and all who enquire-“I’m here on holiday”

16) You attempt to look out of the window when you hear gunfire raging on the streets.

17) When you see cars ahead of you doing U-turns on the 3rd Mainland Bridge, tyres screeching and their drivers yelling warnings of “Ole” (thieves), you tell your driver to “…go on. One must never run without knowing what is pursuing one”.
You are surprised when he jumps out of the car and takes off in the opposite direction. You are even more surprised that he has taken the car keys with him. Your jaw drops in astonishment when the robbing posse saunters over to where you sit petrified in the car and say- “We are international armed robbers. Co-operate with us and there’ll be no trouble”. You wonder why the lead man gives you a black eye when you say “we are one”.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

backtonaija wrote on the impact the abuja showing of V. Monologues- The Nigerian Story made on her.

I watched the second showing of the V Monologues in Abuja on Friday and all I can say is: Ayaya yaya!

Fantastic script, fantastic cast, fantastic acting.

Read more here...

For Pamela Braide's opinion on the abuja outing, go here

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Abuja leg of V Monologues-The Nigerian Story took place on the 6th and 7th of this month at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre and the Women's Development Centre, respectively.

Both shows had audiences that gave standing ovations at the end and made the cast and crew glad. Chants of 'more', 'more' showed we were on the right track after 2-hour performances.

The Lagos leg of the shows will start at the Muson Centre on the 12th and 13th at 6pm both days.

Pictures show cast members rehearsing in Lagos.

Top picture (from left)- Ashionye, Bimbo Akintola, Omonor Imobhio, seated- Kate Henshaw-Nuttall

Middle picture (from left)- Bimbo Akintola, Funmilola Iyanda, Tunde Aladese, Kemi 'lala' Akindoju

Bottom pic- Kate Henshaw and Funmilola Iyanda go through their motions.
The Girl Whisperer

as published by

The Sunday Guardian of March 9

Déjà vu

Everyone knows that déjà vu feeling when it comes to relationships. It’s that sinking sensation in your stomach that grows as you realize you have made yet another mistake in your choice of partners. You look at him or her as the relationship gets heated and suddenly have a moment of epiphany, facing the stark truth for the first time and telling yourself like the Ghanaian judge, Nana, would do in West African Idols as she assessed yet another musical hopeful, “It’s not working for me”.

What is the déjà vu feeling in matters of relationships? In other matters, it’s when you do an act, say a line, are involved in a sequence of events or stand in someplace and have that feeling of certainty that you have at some point in the past, done or said the exact thing you are doing or saying at the present time. It can be an eerie feeling and it is almost always disconcerting. According to the more supernatural minded, it’s your soul revealing to you something you did or said in a past life. Scientists, however say it is a trick of the brain when it makes you think something that happened a split second before, actually once took place hundreds of years before. I would like to stand on the side of the scientists and the trick of the brain in this matter.

George Santayana said that now well-worn statement, “Those who do not remember the mistakes of the past are compelled to repeat it.” Every time in my life, I have pursued someone just for the sake of her brilliant looks or her sensational mind, the graceful way she carries her self or the way her teeth just gleam in the sun, I have learnt a very hard lesson. At each point, such relationships have self-destructed, I have been forced to look back and relieve similar relations in the past and the fact that they all went the same way.

I’ll confess here, that before I learnt the mastery of my emotions and my feelings like every Whisperer should, I would start a relationship with a girl for the sake of her looks and fair skin alone (I’ve always been a sucker for that kind of girl). Before you call me shallow, do not forget you must like a girl for something; her brains, her endowments, her homeliness, her ambition, her beauty; there must be something that is the initial pull for you. For me, it used to be dazzling good looks and fair skin. I cannot tell why, maybe it’s because I was born dark. However, before long, her inability to comprehend why I liked the poetry of W.B. Yeats would begin to bother me. I would fret if she could not read Wole Soyinka’s ‘Ake’ and see it as one of the best books ever written. And if she watched ‘The Pianist’ with me and couldn’t understand that story of the second world war starring Adrian Brody is one of the best movies ever made, I’d get a feeling of déjà vu. Now, I am not saying your partner must share all the same interests with you. Your dream person might like mountain climbing and learning languages while all you want to do is dance salsa, but still the mind must have a meeting point if you do not want that feeling of déjà vu.

So, many of us, choose to like girls for their looks. Unfortunately, that is one of the most dangerous premises to lay a relationship on. Looks will fade and even if they do not, at some point or the other, the impact they once had on you might not be so resonant. Halle Berry has had men in her life that ill-treated and left her after a while (and she’s a specimen of superb exterior beauty). Moreover, a better-looking woman will always come along if you go for looks alone, but do not fall into the trap that makes you equalize a beautiful face and body with a beautiful heart and spirit.

So today, I sit thinking of all the relationships I have had from my days as a teen, and how some went bad, and I know many could have been avoided if I had been able to resist being smitten by the first smile that came from a perfect set of teeth and a svelte body.
My brother, Jinta, would tell me all the time in the early days, “it’s not just about looks”, but I did not listen. I learnt the hard way and so I ask you to learn from one who has been there and done that. It’s not all about looks. It is about the total package. Good looks are okay, but the heart must be good too and the temperament must be a beautiful one too, so you do not get that sinking feeling of déjà vu as you wake up beside her on some dark night when it might be too late.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of 2nd March, 2008

The Crush

I have a huge crush on Martina Navratilova, the Russian tennis player. I don’t know what it is I find fascinating about this beautifully proportioned woman but every time she’s shown on television (I’ve not seen her in real life and if I wasn’t the whisperer, I wouldn’t say our chances of meeting were high), I drop everything I might be doing and focus totally on her. It's in the way she carries herself on the court, the snarl we all hear when she hits a tennis ball. Ah, I have a crush on Martina. But then there’s Uma Thurman as well who starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies; Brandy- the fresh-faced singer, Scarlett Johanssen who appeared in the Fantastic Four movie; Vanessa Williams who was once Miss America; the Miss Worlds India has produced… the list is endless.

Let me digress, I have a personal theory that Indians have the best of both worlds, complexion- wise. There is a mix of white and black that produces an incredible coffee hue that produces beautiful girls, that produces those incredible Miss worlds. Quod Erat Demonstradum. Incredible India. Yeah!

So back to my topic. My dictionary says a crush is to “be, or imagine oneself to be, in love with another”. That’s not a very helpful definition for those who might be seeking answers to why they have ‘feelings’ for others apart from their partners.

The reality is that many will go through life, even if in serious relationships, having crushes on other people. If you think, “no, not me”, you must live in la-la land. Your female partner probably moons over Osaze Odimengwie, the Nigerian footballer or Brad Pitt while the guy in the relationship looks at the actress, Genevieve, in the movies and thinks, “what a fantastic specimen of womanhood”. It’s just the way humans are. The crush does not necessarily mean they ever intend to do anything about it (hopefully).

I saw an advert in a magazine once that showed five super models, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer. The advert’s punch line read, “The odds of you ever going on a date with one of them are 10, 000, 000 to 1. You start to get my drift.
Having a crush is usually a harmless pastime, something you can laugh over with friends or even with your partner. Except you have stalking tendencies, it’s not anywhere near dangerous. However, if you have a shrine in your room dedicated to this crush and you light candles every night around it, there might be a serious problem. It is not a crush anymore in this case, what you need is medical advice.

For those who do not know, the Whisperer writes and directs stage plays amongst other things. So sometime last year, he staged his drama, ‘Anatomy of a Woman’ starring Stella Damasus and put up banners with her face on it at the branches of a major fast-food spot. The banners and stands were stolen after the show from the different outlets and most probably by those who worked at this food place. It baffled the Corporate Affairs Manager of the eatery but I felt sorry for the thieving adults who felt the closest they would ever get to Stella was via a banner. I would not put a life size-flexi-banner of Martina Navratilova in my bedroom except she was paying to brand the room.

So this year, the Whisperer is directing the stage performance of the V Monologues coming up in March, that tale about femininity, the abuse women go through and the struggle to break free off societal shackles. As I give directions to some of the most beautiful and powerful women in the arts and entertainment industry in this land including Kate Henshaw, Funmi Iyanda, Bimbo Akintola, Ashionye, Yinka Davies, Omonor Imobhio and Tunde Aladese, I think to myself, that I have had crushes on all these lovely women at one time or the other. Sometimes, in a perfect world you get to meet your crushes and sometimes not. But that is what it is, harmless fun. People will always find others attractive and if your partner playfully moons over anyone else, do not turn it into World War III. There are many people who have crushes on their pastors, on their lecturers, on the guy who drives a jeep down the street. It just adds colour to life. If you however, come across a box full of cut-out articles and photographs showing she has been studiously pursuing Richard Mofe-Damijo since she was eleven years old, she needs to go for therapy.

The Whisperer wishes you all a beautiful new week.