Stella Oyedepo and the feminist vision in the Rebellion of the Bumpy-Chested
Feminist activism and civic participation can come in many forms, including theatre. The prolific playwright Stella Oyedepo is arguably one of the most visible practitioners of theatre in Nigeria today, with plays including Survive, We Will, The Missing Ingredient, and Brain has no Gender. Oyedepo’s feminism strongly informs her work, which centres around the many ills, perversions, and misplaced social values she perceives in Nigerian society. Her drama has spoken out against the violence women face in society, and has proffered educational empowerment of women to address their marginalisation.
This essay by John Yeseibo examines one of Oyedepo’s plays in particular, The Rebellion of the Bumpy-Chested, to identify and analyse Oyedepo’s feminist vision. It begins by offering a synopsis; a club of impressionable women, led by a frustrated and "beefy" Captain Sharp, embark on a rebellion against the injustices meted out by their husbands. The women take on many roles traditionally regarded as being in the domain of men, but when the men do likewise and take on the roles of women, the disgust felt by one wife, Salwa, spells doom for the rebellion.
Having analysed the play, Yeseibo concludes that the purpose of the play is to challenge institutionalised male monopoly of leadership in decision-making roles, and to emphasise the need to reverse this trend. Also predominant however is the belief that men themselves need to be liberated as a necessary condition in redressing the marginalisation of women. Oyedepo is of the view that radical feminism will not work in the Nigerian context, and will not lessen the denigration of women in society. Instead, complementarity is needed as the panacea for socio-political-economic transformation.