Author: Dumebi Ezar Ehigiator
Publisher: Winepress Publishing
Number of pages: 201
Year of publication: 2016
“Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist.”
Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism.
In Creativity as a Tool for Social Justice, Lisa Tapton rightly observes that “generations of artists and creative thinkers have employed protest songs, paintings and other visual arts to stoke activism and raise awareness of oppression, inequalities and injustice.” She goes further to assert that “[A] key function of art is to educate vulnerable young people who may be affected by such problems as drug trafficking, violence and poverty.”
While some works of art are unambiguously direct in their persuasive tendencies, others remain so abstract that their possible meanings could only be conjectured. The beauty of Dumebi Ehigiator’s WRECKED is in its straightforwardness and preciseness. Seemingly less interested about style or form, or such factors as landscape or weather, Dumebi Ehigiator rather chooses to focus her light on a group of humans and the consequences of their interactions. By the time the reader gets to ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of the book, it becomes clearer that the political and socio-cultural statements packed in WRECKED did not just find a voice by accident but are actually preconceived by the author and intended for the education of her audience towards seeing what damage certain socio-cultural and political actions do to the life of the girl-child.
Squeezed into a sentence, WRECKED narrates the travails of Anaya, a girl from Southeast Nigeria, who never gets to fully recover from the trauma of female gender mutilation she was subjected to as a child. From the very beginning of the book till the last page, Anaya spellbinds everybody she comes in contact with, including the reader. Armed with beauty, wisdom and ambition, Anaya moves to Abuja with the mind of hunting down a rich Northern man. Not long after her arrival, she surmounts all apparent obstacles– including ethno-religious differences and a cold mother-in-law– and weds Jibril, a banker cum stockbroker. Her Northerner husband’s pride and joy of having married a virgin is short-lived as it soon dawns on him that he will have to resort to ‘raping’ her due to her aversion for sex following her unpleasant past.
One of the remarkableness of the book is how Anaya gets to undergo a complete metamorphosis. It is hard to reconcile the former Anaya whose crave for high life led her into getting a housemaid and renting an apartment in a part of town her mother was sure they could ill-afford with the one that eventually gives herself up to the service of sick and traumatized girls using parts of her Maiduguri mansion as a rehabilitation centre. Her miraculous transformation happens exactly halfway through the book. At first, she seemed only concerned about playing the socialite and dazzling the world with her charm and her stately mansion; and then Boko Haram escalates their operation which cripples the social life of the town, almost killing Anaya with boredom. This unpleasant situation, however, is able to produce some good in that it forces Anaya for once to shift her attention away from herself to her immediate environment and the world at large. Indeed, it is correct to say that her rebirth was only possible after chaos forced her “to take an interest in the town. She also took up a language class in Hausa. She raised funds to build a skill acquisition centre and started a foundation to help public school students…” (p 100).
WRECKED is also about a bunch of other fractured lives some of which manage to make it to the finish line despite the powerful currents that buffet them and make to pull them down. There is the child-bride who came down with fistula; there is the girl who managed to escape Boko Haram captivity; there is the housemaid who was a product of father-daughter incest and was continually abused by her father/grandfather until the time she ran away from home. They all find their ways into Anaya’s warm embrace and are made whole.
Narrated by a somewhat intrusive omniscient, WRECKED is proof of how fluid life can be; how dynamic human nature is and what very little effort it takes to make the world a better place. Like the major character in the book, the author has no doubt contributed her own quota to re-making the world by equipping specifically the girl-child with such a book of case studies as WRECKED. Dumebi Ezar Ehigiator is involved in a number of programmes “which aim to equip girls with a sense of responsibility for other girls’ development.” According to her, these “programmes give girls the tools to make positive life choices and have a sense of their own personal power.”