Hemming Tears in Iyua Williams Iorakpen’s Osmosis: A Review
Joshua Agbo (Ph.D.)
Department of Languages and Linguistics
Benue State University, Makurdi, Nigeria
Throughout history, and in all ages, human beings have been driven by the quest for two basic ideals: society and freedom. These ideals co-exist side by side. We value our individuality, we value our self-reliance―peace of mind―yet we utterly depend on the society for our most fundamental needs. In this thought-provoking and intricately crafted play, Osmosis, Iyua Williams Iorakpen explores the tensions that lie at the heart of what it means to be human, as well as the primary desire that defines us.
Osmosis, as a contemporary drama of trauma with an exclusive autonomy to select its own audience based on its message, ultimately, or sadly, selects all of us―you and me―either as a participant, witness or arbiter, and gets us weeping, sobbing, crying for, and sympathizing with the child-victims of sexual abuse, as the play itself points out the misfit’s “origin-story” in a deeply disturbing society. The re-telling of the story is Iyua’s role as a playwright, but the story is ours and we should read it as a screen through which we can see ourselves, because it contains everything we crave so deeply: truth, soul, freedom, peace, and grace. The story gets us closer to the truth and the truth gets us closer to a better world.
The Author’s Background
Iyua Williams Iorakpen was born to the family of Iorakpen Mayange Gyanden from Mbagba–Ukan, Ushongo Local Government of Benue State. He read for a Degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. Iorakpen is an excellent actor, drama director and gifted playwright.
His published works include: Echoes of the Heart (a play; which turned out to be the first literary text written on the Kanuri culture of Borno); Still in the Void (a play), And So It Came to Pass (a biographical play on his mother); Osmosis (a play) and Waiting and Laying Blames (Poetry), Sometime in Zakybiam (a play), And Revolution Begins (a play), and Network News (a play), and So long (a play). In 2008, shortly after his National Youth Service, Williams Iorakpen started his Publishing Outfit known as Afriwhood Publications and Productions; a label under which he published most of his books and promoted their productions. He is a writer of many parts.
The Play and Its Theme of Child Sexual Abuse
Osmosis, published by the Exceller Books Press in Belgharia, India, 2020, consists of eleven characters with fifty three pages. Unlike the traditional plays written in the Senecan style of act- and-scene segmentation, Osmosis, written not in defiance to this traditionally classic style, is instead compartmentalised into in “Happening 1, Happening 2, Happening 2, and etcetera, to mark a new form of contemporary style of African drama. It is not, in my own eyes, a violation of the old theatrical conventions, but a creative innovation or experimentation of modern play-writing. Further, as an insight into the thematic overlay, the play is foreworded by Shedrach Fanan Agyaku, who first tells us that the play is about: “The nature of humans as sexual beings…” and by dint of this sharp perspicacity, we are immediately introduced to what the play is about―abuse.
For example, Onome, the protagonist of the play embodies pedophilia, and incest as demonstrated in Happening I―Alero, his wife, describes him as a “…beast[!] “Give me my child, what the hell were you doing [,] using my daughter to masturbate or what? Can you ever be satisfied? You pedophile”! It is a portrayal of a man who never satisfied sexually, and morally debased to an extent of abusing his own child.
As if abusing one’s own daughter was not a grave-enough-crime―Onome, a sex maniac goes on in Happening 2 to lure Osareti into sex and so he has this to say: “You don’t need to be in such a rush. I have told you that she would be back soon. Osareti, do you know that of all the members of your family [,] you are the most beautiful? I get lost in a trance each time I see you”.
The playwright exposes the true burden of child sex abuse through the lens of an arbiter. Child abuse is a serious and devastating problem not just in Africa, but the world over―it is a transgression which cuts across all religions, creeds, cultures, and traditions. However, the number of children on the continent who are abused has always been underestimated. Child abuse, for instance, is deﬁned by the WHO as “all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation that result in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development or dignity”.