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To be a woman isn't easy

27 October 2008, 19:42

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Immpact’s experimental play for Burkina villagers aims to give something back to the people they studied.

Scene 1:

(Baba and Bintou are a couple with several children. They are sitting and chatting. Bintou’s stomach is bulging; In fact she has reached her term.)

Baba: (both desperate and enthusiastic, as if he were talking to himself): Eh Allah, what to do? It’s almost the Fespaco, in Ouagadougou, the capital city. Me, I like movies so much that I would really like to go visit people in Ouaga and watch movies, movies, movies…

Bintou: Honestly you men, you’re not worth it, han! The Fespaco, Ouagadougou (the annual international film festival), you think that you’d find a real life there? Instead of looking toward Ouagadougou and its madness, you’d better look into the granary…

Baba: (jumps up): what? Are you saying that we have no more millet? It’s already finished?

Bintou: (pretending to be surprised) a bana ô… a bana dë! (in Jula, it’s already finished!) I always tell you: you’ve got to choose between drinking your dolo and chatting with your friends and prepare for hard times by saving some millet… (as if threatening) you’ve got to choose, you’ve got to choose, dê, or else!

Baba: Ho! ho!, thrifty woman… even economist and philosopher… when women start giving lessons, my friends, beware (he moves forward and speaks to the crowd) watch out, sparks are going to fly!

Bintou: Ouch, ouch… My God, it’s starting again… Eh Allah, Masa Allah, ouch, ouch (in fact, her labour pains have started).

(Baba turns back to his wife and looks at the crowd as if calling them to witness again):

Baba: Oh it’s nothing! You know she’s a good actress! It’s nothing, tchêê! I really feel that my Fespaco has started…but please note that the show is free… (his wife cuts him off and calls him in distress).

Bintou: Baba ô, Baba â! Help me…my time has come, I’m going to give birth…

(Baba turns to the crowd):

Baba: Hey, this looks serious, dê. Yet, she always gave birth here in the house. There was never any problem. Both our children are in good health. But this time… (he looks worried)

Bintou: (very angry): Will you take me to the clinic, or what?

Baba: what do you mean, clinic? Why can’t you have the baby here? But Bintou i ti sabari? Do I have to ask forgiveness kê?

Bintou: If you don’t take me, I’ll go alone. (She shows how much she is suffering).

Baba: Wait for me, I’ll get my bike…I’ll get my bike. (He’s running left and right, in fact, he’s panicking).

Scene 2:

Bintou: (losing blood): We’ll never get there on time: I’m feeling bad.

Baba: Courage, we are there. You see, here is the nurse.

The nurse: aw dansè (en Jula, welcome). Can I help you?

Baba: yîîî Doctoro Mousso, you must help us dê. Things are not going well. My wife is very tired, she is losing blood.

The nurse: (checks the patient quickly): yes, she is very tired. She has lost a lot of blood. There is not much blood left in her body. And labour has started a long time ago. What are you waiting for?

Baba: Doctoro Mousso, in fact, Bintou my wife, she always delivered her babies at home. This time is the third time. There was never any problem.

The nurse: Well sir, that’s precisely the problem. Some pregnancies are fine, but sometimes, they don’t turn out well at all. Like this one, for example. Quick, you must go the hospital, because here, there is not much we can do to help.

(Baba is shocked):

Baba: What, my wife is not going to die, right? I just told you that she has already given birth at home, how many times was it? (he’s interrupted by the nurse and by Bintou).

The nurse and Bintou (together): Quick quick…

Scene 3:

(In one corner of the stage, Bintou who has had her baby, is lying on a mat. At the other end of the stage, Baba in a soliloquy.)

Baba: That’s it, I’m telling you. Bintou had the baby. Thank God, but hey it is not over dê. She is always sick. You can see her there (he is showing the place). She is pleased with her baby, but it’s not over dê. As for me, I’m lost. I’m lost ô ô, I’m lost.

(Joseph arrives, a neighbour of Baba and Bintou, and is surprised to see Baba talking to himself.)

Joseph: Eh Allah. Baba koun da fani lo â? (in Jula, is Baba losing his head?). Nteri (in Jula, my friend), you’re talking to yourself now? Is everything all right?

Baba: eh Jo, good thing you came. I was looking for you. In fact, euh (he’s embarrassed). Well…

Jo: (wants to be nice): it’s OK, tell me! What is wrong? Come on!

Baba: In fact, you wouldn’t have 10 000 F to lend me? I’ll reimburse you, walaï !

Jo: more money? Baba, be careful dê. You owe me a lot already.

Baba: Walaï, I will reimburse you. It is very important.

Jo: I saw you emptying your granary to go sell grain to Ladji the shopkeeper. I saw you selling chickens, roosters and sheep in the market, two days ago. (Comes closer to Baba, looking around to make sure nobody can hear him): People even say in the village that you sold Bintou’s clothes and jewellery to some women of the village. Is that true?

(Baba speaks as if he couldn’t care less):

Baba: Didn’t they also tell you that at the hospital they kept my identity card and my bicycle UNTIL I HAVE PAID ALL MY DEBTS (he places an emphasis on the last words)

Jo: eh Baba, y fô (in Jula, may God have pity on you). . Do you think we can afford to invite? What are they going to eat? You do know that we have no more chickens. Also I feel weak all the time. You know I haven’t got enough strength to go fetch wood or leaves in the bush to make a sauce. I always have to go to the hospital.

Baba: (panicky): Walaï, don’t ever say that word again in front of me. It is my sworn enemy. Hospital? Waï… Hospital and me from now on it is war!

(Bintou looks at her baby):

Bintou: Don’t shout, you are scaring the baby. You know he doesn’t look healthy either (changing the subject). You know Baba, I meant to tell you something: when I go to the toilet, it hurts. It‘s burning…Also, it is difficult for me to keep my…my…

Baba: your urine? Bê it happens to me too, sometimes. Where is the problem?

(Bintou looks like she’s crying. Baba comes closer, appearing to be friendly):

Bintou: No Baba, you don’t understand. I’m constantly sick. It is not going well.

Baba: (pretending to be sympathetic): That is true, you are always tired. You should rest.

(Baba helps his wife to sit down).

Bintou: You are so understanding. Thank you very much.

(While going over to her seat, Bintou is losing urine. In fact she has a urinary infection. Baba notices that, and speaks solemnly).

Baba: There, as you are so tired…Since you can’t prepare food for your husband and his friends…Since you cannot have any more children without causing lots of problems for your husband…Since _. Because, hum hum _(clearing his throat), because your husband must have more children… I have decided to take another wife.

(Hearing this, Bintou picks up her things and leaves.)

Scene 5:

(Baba and his new wife. In a corner, Bintou is alone, lost in the background.)

New wife: I wonder how you could ever love a woman like this old witch there (she gestures contemptuously with her chin).

She is not beautiful (she shows one finger, as if she counted Bintou’s shortcomings on her fingers).

She can’t cook (showing two).

She doesn’t know how to receive her husband’s friends (showing three).

And she can’t have children (she shows four).

Baba: (looking happy): In fact, how many children are you going to give me?

New wife: But as many as you want my dear husband. And they will be as beautiful and as strong as their father.

Baba: That’s what I call a wife. That’s what I call looking after a husband.

New wife: By the way Baba, aren’t we going to eat tonight? You know that your friend Joseph is coming tonight, don’t you?

Baba: What would I do without you, my dear? It’s a good thing you’re here. : Eh Bintou… eh Bintou wêe…ne ko Bintou ô ô … (in Jula, I say… Bintou).

(Bintou comes to Baba dishevelled and badly dressed. She walks with difficulty, looking exhausted.)

Baba: Listen Bintou, you’re going to go fetch water. Then go to the garden to get some condiments from your sister Fanta. Tell her to add this to my bill. I will pay soon. But first, go fetch wood from the bush. When everything is ready, go ask Ladji the shopkeeper to set aside three loaves of bread and two tins of sardines. Your co-wife will go collect them…OK?

(Bintou without showing any sign of emotion, moves out, completely discouraged. She comes to the front of the stage for a monologue.)

Bintou: (talking to the audience): Yes yes, it isn’t easy to be a woman. A baby, it’s beautiful, very beautiful. It’s absolute happiness. But if you have a husband like Baba, you’ve had it. He knows nothing. He is surprised when complications happen. Now I know that complications can happen any time. Even if you have had several babies at home, you must be careful. If you haven’t saved some money, you’re in trouble. You’re in trouble dê!

Then, it is not over after giving birth. It’s not over dê! Your body might be sick, very sick even, like mine. And if you’re not careful, your husband will go find other women.

If you are stupid enough to make babies without being looked after by the doctoro mousso, if you die, you and your baby, who is losing out, I ask you…Who is losing out?


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