Monday, February 22, 2010

Hi, I'm Your Vagina and I Feel Ignored

Note: This is a post about vaginas. I use the word over 30 times. If you think this may offend you, you can skip this post. There's plenty of other fun stuff to read on this blog.

I'm your vagina. Why don't you ever look at me? know you think I smell bad and would never consider tasting me. Look, I'm not trying to make you look bad or's just...I feel ignored.
I haven't had a loving rub in so long? Or pretty new clothes. I really love you and I miss you and I wish we could be better friends.

Your vagina.

ps: I hate g-strings.

How's that for an introduction? hehe.

It may be that the only place you hear this kind of talk is at the Vagina Monologues, a play by Eve Ensler. I'd never actually seen the play, that is, until last Saturday. I'd read the book.But it was so long ago, I hardly remembered anything. So when I first heard that dudu communications would be performing the vagina monologues in Ghana, maybe I should have wanted to see it, but honestly, I wasn’t moved. I hardly paid attention. I knew that the play had been performed at least twice, perhaps more, at the University of Ghana drama studio in past years. So playing It again this year didn’t seem like a big deal. But when I heard last week that the venue was the national theatre, I became curious.

On Thursday, a friend asked me if I was going and I said maybe…Then he voiced what had been going through my head since I heard of the venue, saying it could be interesting is to see how the ordinary Ghanaian react to something like this. The audience! That’s what made the whole difference. See, the typical audience for plays staged at the drama studio is select. You know, what I mean. Art lovers, academics, more exposed, more open minded. It’s not going to be a big deal if you say vagina a few times to them.

But being that ɛtwɛ is not a word we use in publicly, how would Ghanaians react to the vagina monologues?! In my family, we call the vagina “tatabo”…don’t ask! My grandmother’s invention. Haha. Of course my mind wasn’t helping matters. It took it to a whole other level…imagining my grandmother watching the vagina monologues! This is going to be a big deal, I thought. Probably funny too. Would they say vagina in Ghanaian languages? Would the public protest? Anyone who knows me might have known that the moment my friend asked how the audience would react…that I was going to go. Hehe. Ms. Cleland does not just pass up once in a lifetime people-watching opportunities like this.

But I didn't know the time and fee.

On my way to work on Friday, I saw a few communications announcing the event on the road between Christian Village and Achimota Hospital. It was a do it yourself style communication: A smaller version of the Ghana style paint writing on cloth that the churches like to use to announce their annual harvests. The tro-tro in which I sat passed too quickly and I wasn't able to note the time and the gate fee.

So later in the day, I hit the www, looking for more information. I googled “vagina monologues Ghana 2010”. That’s when I found Nana Ama Twum Baah’s article: Did Somebody Say Vagina Show? It was the first thing that popped up. Nana Ama is editor of Afrikan Goddess. I quickly scanned her article to see if it had information about the venue and gate fee. It didn’t but it seemed interesting so I ended up reading the article anyway.

Nana Ama’s gripe was with the way the event had been publicized in the media, citing examples from Ghanaweb,, and which made it seem like it was going to be a show with vaginas on public display.

Here are some snippets from her article:

My disgust, and the disgust of a majority of the people who have expressed disgust, I believe stems from what we read, saw, and assumed, and not the actual theatrical production. Instead of focusing on the positive message carried by the plays, however, they have succeeded in bringing focus to a part of my anatomy, and that of all women, that I had hoped would never be on such public display – ever! For this reason, I believe they did women a disservice, and in Isaac’s word’s made a positive thing “a complete insult to womanhood!”

As I read the article, the Ghanaian in me woke up. Hee lɛɛ! Fight pai! Whitaker and Gomez. As my friend Yaw will say, Chei! Matter don come! Wallahi. The woman bore!

I was feeling her. I agreed with her. It also occurred to me that maybe the organizers intentionally allowed the ambiguity to remain to generate some publicity for the show and get people curious. But you didn’t hear this from me. Lest I be arrested in the style of the guy who said JJ burned down his own house. Matter o! Me…If the police comes, I’ll deny I ever said the organizers were complicit

Another of her beefs was with the fact that we were borrowing the vagina monologues, saying

“we don’t need others to tell us that rape is an indecent act against human dignity that needs to be corrected. Women in the Congo, in Rwanda, and right under our noses in Ghana suffer this on a daily basis. The organizers could have given the event some originality and some Ghanaian/African flavor. They could have taken the suffering of women from an African viewpoint. African women are raped and brutalized in times of war, in their marital homes, and on the streets; and the monologues could have been advertised to address these issues in our own way – while incorporating some of the concepts of the Western plays”

I’m in two minds about her latter concern. On one hand, it would be nice if we developed our own way of empowering men and women to love their vaginas, and to educate about sexual abuse in our communities. However, since we have not yet done that, and Eve Ensler’s play has been effective in achieving the same end in the 119 countries in which it has been performed, one would ask, why reinvent the wheel? And in the organizer’s defense, they did actually give it something of a Ghanaian flavor.

By this point, I’m sure you’re all dying to find out…
Yes, yes, I went. Of course I went.

I never figured out the time and fee but I guessed and went.

It's called curiosity. My strength and my weakness. I just had to go.

I showed up at the National theatre on Saturday at 7 pm. It turned out that the gate fee was 20 GHC and that there were 2 shows: One at 6:30 pm and the other at 8:30 pm. So I waited for the 8:30 show.

While I was waiting, I people-watched. Was the crowd really the ordinary Ghanaian? Depends what you mean by ordinary. There were no Auntie Yaas, and sister Akos' though. I even remarked to my friend that i'd never seen so many women with locs in one place in Ghana. The audience was fairly young. Mostly young professionals, I'd say.To me, they looked like the same crowd you might find at the drama studio. Also, the attendance wasn't that great.The lower part of the national theater was only filled to maybe half its capacity, if even that. It was good for those of us who went because it made for a small intimate gathering, but I'm not so sure the organizers were thrilled about it?

And how was it? You ask?
AWESOME! Just fantastic.

It was engaging, and took the audience through so many different emotions in a few hours. At times we were laughing, at times we were cringing, at times we were horrified, at times we were wanting some, haha, but by the end of it, I just wanted to go home, pull out my mirror and just look at my vagina.

Shall I give a blow by blow account?
Yes? No?

Okay, I’ll try to give you some idea but I’m sure to leave some things out, so anyone else who was there, please pitch in.

There was a part of it where they asked questions like

If your vagina could talk, what would it say?
It’s been so long?
I want some?
Closed to losers?
Remember me?

If your vagina were a woman what would it wear?
A 3 piece suit?
A mini skirt and 4 inch stiletto heels?
A placard saying “closed” due to floods?

What does your vagina smell like?
In this segment, one of the actresses made a point about how we try so hard to make vaginas smell like soaps and perfumes and powders, when a vagina should smell like a vagina. My personal take on the matter is that a vagina is an acquired “taste“. As long as you’re trying to make it smell or taste like strawberries and chocolate, you can never enjoy its unique taste. Kind of like kenkey. If you give someone kenkey for the first time in their life, in all likelihood they won’t like it. But instead of making kenkey taste or smell like strawberry, we smell it again and again, we taste it again and again until one day, we realize, the smell of kenkey makes us hungry. And when we eat it, we love the taste! Same thing with the vagina. So what does your vagina smell like? What does it taste like?

Then there was a segment about the names we call vagina. Like pussy, vajaije. And coochie snorcher, and toto, and ɛtwɛ. They went through what the ewe, dagomba and other Ghanaian ethnic groups call it. There was even a whole section on reclaiming the word cunt. Saying it over and over again so that it becomes a beautiful word associated with good, beautiful feelings as opposed to thinking of it as an insult or as something dirt. Cunt. Cunt. Cunt. Cunt. Cunt. Cunt.

Then there was a part about types of moans. Like the “almost there” moan, and the “beyonce” moan, and the porn moan, etc. That was soooooooo funny. Did you know? There’s a Ghanaian moan. It goes like this: agyei, agyie, bra me mpɛ saa, bra, braa, agyei….mmm, mmm, agyei, bra me mpɛ saa…aaaaaaaaaaaaaa (a contented sigh)…bra medaase.

And there was Bob.
Bob was the tall, lean, nondescript guy who was neither charismatic nor handsome. But Bob was the hero of last night. Even after we left the national theatre for my friend’s birthday party at Bella Roma, that new Italian joint down the side street from Frankies, we were still talking about Bob. What did Bob do? He made one woman fall in love with her vagina. See, Bob loved vaginas. He loved looking at them, smelling them, tasting them. In bob’s eyes, vaginas were beautiful. Before Bob, this woman had never looked at her vagina, and probably never tasted it. She always had sex in the dark. But then Bob came along and she slowly started to love her vagina, to experience feelings she didn’t know existed.

As Nana Ama explained in her article,
“the plays are performed awareness of sexual crimes against women to the audience, to get women to open up about their private sufferings (not their private parts) – rape, sexual assault, domestic violence - and to make them aware that they do not need to suffer in silence. Now all this is good. The aim of the monologues is to allow women an avenue to openly talk about these issues and to release the anger and shame they feel in a positive way”
No, it wasn’t all just fun talk about pussies. Some of the monologues were from women’s experiences with rape. They talked about female genital mutilation and childhood rape, and also about abuses in Sudan and Congo. And about toxic shock syndrome from wearing tampons. And why does the pap test have to be so impersonal and so painful sometimes? Reminded me of the last time I got a pap test in Ghana. It was also my first time, and honest to God, unlike the pap tests I’d gotten in the US, this one hurt! I asked the doctor why and he said he likes to scrape a lot so he’s sure the results are accurate. And I once had a Colposcopy. That was in the US. It’s a test for precancerous cells. I think they make you get it if you have an abnormal pap. That was the most painful vaginal experience ever. And why did I have to have 3 nurses in addition to the doctor looking at my vagina when I had the pap test in Ghana?

The show ended on the educational note. Stating some statistics on the number of women who’re sexually abused and making us all walk away thinking about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I felt that my 20 GHC was well spent…unlike at the last event I went to, the Canoe Fashion Show, where after paying 50 GHC, two hours later, I was like, huh? That was it? I’ve been ripped off. A friend paid for me but still…I could have done a lot with that money. Kudos to the actresses especially. All five of them were wonderful.

So yeah, that's how it went. Even though I went because I wanted to people-watch, I ended up having a lot of fun.


  1. lol @ people watching. I'd have gone to people-watch too.

    Can you give the names of the five actresses? There was so much controversy in the media about who was acting, etc, etc.

    I watched the show here at my university once and interesting, most of the attendees were women. It looked like guys were not too interested in seeing it. That alone is a whole other discussion. I thought the show was hilarious and funny. Then again, the show has a strong focus on sexual abuse, domestic violence and it was a nice artistic way to get the message across.

  2. The actresses: Lydia Forson, Naa Ashorkor Doku are Kezia Addai Boateng, Pearl Darkey and Obenewaa Nkansah.

    Yeah, there were more women but i think the few men who came enjoyed themselves.

  3. @Ato:
    Maybe I watched it at the wrong time, but when I did back on campus, there were a lot of guys in the audience..... then again the Vandals might have taken more interest in the show hence the no of guys at the show....

  4. Esi, I'm glad to know that the show didn't disappoint. And even more glad to hear that they did give it an African perspective. Thanks for breaking down the night. It would have been fun to see, especially…

    … What does your vagina smell like? Good one, and very creative! I stopped douching for this very reason! A vagina is supposed to smell like a vagina heck! It’s supposed to go through its monthly variations of smells – mine does, and I let it be. According to my gynecologist, this is normal. The vagina cleanses itself from the inside and does not need any outside assistance (douching). It does more harm than good. Besides the two showers I take daily, I leave my vagina be - since we’re talking so openly about them.

    Lol at "the woman bore" comment. Yes, I was really heated when I wrote that article. I should have probably let it sit a few days so I could cool off before submitting it for publication. Lol! But I have no regrets. I “wrote” my mind.

    On a side note: I find the pap smear experience in Ghana a little disturbing. I don't remember it ever having to be a painful experience either. I find it disturbing because I fear women will not want to get it done because of the pain. Heaven knows I wouldn't.

  5. Great post,did you go there with a tape recorder?
    I have seen VM a couple of times and i still cant believe some of the issues talked about.

  6. interesting post. this country is indeed becoming more and more liberal .... albeit slowly.
    the mention of the word vagina and its many aliases, so many times in a single location, here in GH? looking forward to many more of such open discussions on other "taboo" topics

    kojo frimpong

  7. OMG! Sounds like it was tons of fun! I laughed all the way to the end.I would have liked to see Lydia Forson play her role. She's become one of my favourites.

  8. "agyei, agyie, bra me mpɛ saa, bra, braa, agyei….mmm, mmm, agyei, bra me mpɛ saa…aaaaaaaaaaaaaa (a contented sigh)…bra medaase"

    Haha... I laughed so hard when I read about the Ghanaian moan. LOL. From "bra me mpe saa" to "bra medaase". That's a classic.

    Great job.

  9. Interesting indeed, it has been performed for some years now in Nigeria. I only saw the first one which is from the book but I hear later ones have been more Nigerianized. Good report.

  10. Love the post and thanks for the insight. Was sad I couldn't be there for the very first, but glad u got to go cos now so did I (if tht makes sense lol). Take care dearie!!

  11. Interesting piece. Enjoyed every piece of it.

  12. I saw the VM a couple of times at MHC. It was always a fun and introspective experience. I would have liked to see the Ghanaian version as well.

    I do remember that there were very few guys in the audience (this being at MHC nad all) but I know the guys always seemsed to have a lot of fun as well. My favourite thing was to tell the guys I know I was attending. It was always amusing to have my Ghanaian guys visibly cringe whenever I said the word vagina.

    I must say that the "types of orgasms/moans" monologue is always my favourite. Done well, it can be amazing (pun intended, LOL).

  13. I attended VM here in the States my freshman year in college; missed out this year because of the snowpacolypse.... I would have loved to view it in GH and had this discussion with a girlfriend of mine who missed her chance when she was in GH this past Christmas. Like you, I would have gone to watch the audience but am glad you have an enlightening experience. Honestly the orgasm part from the American perspective is a bore compared to the GH version, I had to laugh out loud with that one. I was a bit unsettled with the "cunt" chant though. It reminds me of a nasty old redneck referring to the town prostitute. Eek.
    Well written and reviewed Esi.
    I am sharing with all my creative pool of friends right now.
    P.S. Lydia Forson??? Gosh I love her...

  14. The Angry Vagina Rant is always my favourite of the VMs, "Vagina Motherf***kers!", cracks me up every time.

    I agree with you Esi, it would be interesting to attend a "Ghana-nized" version of the Virgina Monologues. If only to satisfy curiosity of what a Ghanaian crowd's reaction would be to themes of rape, abuse, homosexuality, masturbation, etc that the play tackles.

    One wonders what this means for Ghanaian society though, that a play like the VMs is being showcased on such a public and national platform. Is Ghana becoming more liberalized?

  15. i saw the show in NYC in the late 90's i think. glad to hear that it's worn well.