New Work: Onyeka Igwe – ‘No Dance, No Palaver’

Thursday 5th July 2018, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM @ LUX, Dartmouth Park Hill, London, N19 5JF

‘No Dance, No Palaver’ is the culmination of Onyeka’s research into the Aba Women’s War of 1929. All the films use the first anti-colonial uprising in Nigeria led by an all woman army, as a entry point to experiment with moving images relating to West Africa during the first half of the 20th century.

The series serves as an attempt to use critical proximity, to the visualise the trauma of the colonial past, in order to know and understand the people and its impact on Nigerians today. The screening will be followed by Onyeka Igwe in conversation with Imani Robinson and Rabz Lansiquot members of sorryyoufeeluncomfortable.com

Programme:

Her Name in My Mouth‘ 6:02

The film revisions the Aba Women’s War, the first major anti-colonial uprisings in Nigeria, using embodiment, gesture and the archive. The film is structured around the repurposing of archival films from the British propaganda arm cut against a gestural evocation of the women’s testimonies.

Sitting on a Man‘ 6:42

Traditionally, women in Igbo speaking parts of Nigeria, came together to protest the behaviour of men by sitting on or making war on them by adorning themselves with palm fronds, dancing and singing protest songs outside the man in question’s home . This practice became infamous due its prominence as a tactic in the Aba Women’s War, the 1929 all woman protest against colonial rule. Two contemporary dancers reimagine the practice, drawing on both archival research and their own experiences.

Specialised Technique‘ 6:16

William Sellers and the Colonial Film Unit developed a framework for colonial cinema, this included slow edits, no camera tricks and minimal camera movement. Hundreds of films were created in accordance to this rule set. In an effort to recuperate black dance from this colonial project, Specialised Technique, attempts to transform this material from studied spectacle to livingness.

About:

Onyeka Igwe is an artist filmmaker, programmer and researcher. She lives and works in London. In her non-fiction video work Onyeka uses dance, voice, archive and text to expose a multiplicity of narratives. The work explores the physical body and geographical place as sites of cultural and political meaning. Her video works have shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Nuit Blanche, Toronto, The Showroom, London, articule, Montreal and Trinity Square Video, Toronto as well as at the London, Edinburgh Artist Moving Image, Rotterdam International and Hamburg film festivals.

sorryyoufeeluncomfortable is a London-based collective creating intentional spaces for radical study, conversation and multi-disciplinary art-making. Formed out of the Baldwin’s Reloaded Project, initiated by artist Barby Asante and curator Teresa Cisneros, SYFU has presented work at ICA, 198 CAL, Wellcome Collection, Tate Exchange, The Showroom and Iniva in London, as well as BALTIC (Newcastle), KVS (Brussels), Nottingham Contemporary (Nottingham) and Framer Framed (Amsterdam).

About the Riots:

 

Image result for Aba Women’s War of 1929

The “riots” or the war, led by women in the provinces of Calabar and Owerri in southeastern Nigeria in November and December of 1929, became known as the “Aba Women’s Riots of 1929” in British colonial history, or as the “Women’s War” in Igbo history. Thousands of Igbo women organized a massive revolt against the policies imposed by British colonial administrators in southeastern Nigeria, touching off the most serious challenge to British rule in the history of the colony. The “Women’s War” took months for the government to suppress and became a historic example of feminist and anti-colonial protest.

The roots of the riots evolved from January 1, 1914, when the first Nigerian colonial governor, Lord Lugard, instituted the system of indirect rule in Southern Nigeria. Under this plan British administrators would rule locally through “warrant chiefs,” essentially Igbo individuals appointed by the governor. Traditionally Igbo chiefs had been elected.

Within a few years the appointed warrant chiefs became increasingly oppressive. They seized property, imposed draconian local regulations, and began imprisoning anyone who openly criticized them. Although much of the anger was directed against the warrant chiefs, most Nigerians knew the source of their power, British colonial administrators. Colonial administrators added to the local sense of grievance when they announced plans to impose special taxes on the Igbo market women. These women were responsible for supplying the food to the growing urban populations in Calabar, Owerri, and other Nigerian cities. They feared the taxes would drive many of the market women out of business and seriously disrupt the supply of food and non-perishable goods available to the populace.

Image result for Aba Women’s War of 1929

 

In November of 1929, thousands of Igbo women congregated at the Native Administration centers in Calabar and Owerri as well as smaller towns to protest both the warrant chiefs and the taxes on the market women. Using the traditional practice of censoring men through all night song and dance ridicule (often called “sitting on a man”), the women chanted and danced, and in some locations forced warrant chiefs to resign their positions. The women also attacked European owned stores and Barclays Bank and broke into prisons and released prisoners. They also attacked Native Courts run by colonial officials, burning many of them to the ground. Colonial Police and troops were called in. They fired into the crowds that had gathered at Calabar and Owerri, killing more than 50 women and wounding over 50 others. During the two month “war” at least 25,000 Igbo women were involved in protests against British officials.

The Aba Women’s war prompted colonial authorities to drop their plans to impose a tax on the market women, and to curb the power of the warrant chiefs. The women’s uprising is seen as the first major challenge to British authority in Nigeria and West Africa during the colonial period.