The village girl we all know so well is Wole Soyinka’s Sidi in The Lion and the Jewel. The Sidi character hits home because we all know that one village girl from the place we grew up or stay or just made up. Most of us are village people with a little bit of polish. That is why the towns are lighter during the festive season. We go back to see our Sidis. We go back to remind ourselves of our former selves.
In this poetry collection, Phionah Bahungirehe brings the reader back to the realities and dreams of a village girl. Village life has its own form and structure that has stood the taste of time.
This collection reminds us of the way of life that the village teaches. You can tell from the poems chosen of the structure of village life. They speak of conventions that define the way of life. And there is no room for questioning them. For example in a poem why do men eat sweets? It is not very much to the concern of the why but rather of why not. It is interesting to see how a small image of a sweet is used to address a key topic of the gender roles in society.
Village life comes with a reluctance to take things for granted. Take for instance children who grow up in such settings; in the collection, the poet highlights the way children go about their daily life— unclothed, unbothered and unguarded.
Adults too have the opportunity of doing away with routines that exhaust many of the urban dwellers. In the village you can get away without showering which may not be the case with the town dwellers. However there is a thin line between highlighting these minor achievements and sarcasm. There are so many questions pertaining to these liberties. At what point does the community influence the individual?
There are a lot of things we need to question when it comes to the heart of a village girl. When you compare Lawino, a village woman from Okot P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino, you will tell that the two village women have varying opinions having lived through the village at different times. Lawino’s view on marriage is very clear. She wants to be married to a man of her land. A similar case is true for Sidi. She prefers Baroka to Lakunle. In this collection, this village girl does not feel ready when the month of August- the month of marriage- comes. She chases all her suitors because she is only 21. You would argue that the village girl is the second generation of Lawino and Sidi and her approach to topics like marriage has since changed. The village has stayed the same but norms like consent are hereby questioned.
I expected to find more of the village-rich language and diction but the author prefers to give us only Lakunle’s version of the village if we are to go by the Lion and the Jewel.
That said, My Village comes at a time when the norms that defined village life are being challenged and questioned. This collection calls for a revision of the norms that we take on without question. It comes at the right time.
AUTHOR: Phionah Bahungirehe
TITLE: My Village; The Heart of a Village Girl
PUBLISHER: Optimist Media Ltd