Playrights Mfoniso Udofia and Ngozi Anyanwu Are Using Their Plays To Tell Nigerian Stories To The World


photographs by Brad Ogbonna for The New York Times

The desire to tell the stories of their heritage led these American playwrights who are the daughters of immigrants from  Nigerian.

Asides from wanting to paint the true picture of Africa away from the stories of war, struggles and hunger, these women’s story is in a way connected to their background.

Asides from what she was told by her parents about the Nigerian custom, 35-year-old Ngozi Anyanwu didn’t know much about it. one of the customs that intrigues her is the elaborate way burials are done.

One day, she knows she would be in Nigeria to bury her father, who lived all his adult life in the U.S.

But born and raised in the U.S, Ngozi is puzzled by what it means to be connected to and disconnected from the country of one’s family at the same time and this led her to write her play, The Homecoming Queen.

The Homecoming Queen is about a Nigerian-born American novelist who is confronted by her unsure feelings about her homeland when she returns to visit her dying father.

SEE ALSO: Njideka Akunyili Explores The Challenges Of Being An African Woman In America Through Her Paintings

“You can complain about how your culture is depicted, or you can do it yourself. That’s why you’re seeing a bubbling up of first-generation African stories. We have not been feeling satisfaction with the kind of African stories being told, so we have to do it,” Ngozi said.

Her play is produced by a prestigious New York theater in the last two years, and all of the shows have been huge successes.

Ngozi’s parents wanted her to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a nurse  but she knew she wanted a career in the arts. So, after she graduated from the University of California San Diego, she visited Nigeria, and when she came back she started the First Generation Nigerian Project — a group of female Nigerian-American performers and writers in New York.

37-year-old Antoinette Nwandu has only spoken to her Nigerian father once, since her parents divorced when she was a baby. Raised by her African-American mother, she knows little about her Nigerian background.

With an identity that seems complicated and inspired by writers with stronger knowledge about their African heritage, Antoinette wrote her play, Pass Over.

“I definitely think that my heritage informs characters who are searching for self, who are wondering and grappling with whether or not they can remake themselves,” she said.

These Nigerians are a part of the African-American playwrights using their plays to change the narratives of Africa and how it is perceived outside their homeland.

Read more on the NewYork Times

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