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Then She Said It
By Tess Osonye Onwueme








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"Where it to be staged during the military era, the playwright, cast and crew would have successfully booked themselves a place in some detention camps and dotted the length and breath of this country. Then She Said It, a new and explosive drama by Tess Onwueme showcases the multi-nationals and the fate suffered by the people of the South South geo-political zone of the country Hungeria [Nigeria]... The endless cries of the oppressed, the traumatized and brutalized women of Africa who are constantly agitating for emancipation, can also be heard from this latest work of the Delta State-born scholar... Recently at the Chinua Achebe Arts Theatre. University of Calabar, the Nigerian Guild of Actors treated the university community to another spectacular production of the play... Each scene cuts a grim picture of the devastating effects of explosion of oil pipelines which kill scores in its wake, the immediate and remote effect of oil pollution in the society...
The audience was touched in a scene, when a thousand and one job seekers, armed with their credentials, turned up in response to a notice for the hiring of a security guard for the oil club...Another pathetic spectacle presented itself when they filed out with assorted jerry-cans to buy kerosene [and fuel] at a service station for domestic use... The have their hopes dashed when the smart [fuel] Attendant refuses to sell the commodity to them on grounds of non-availability; preferring instead, to strike a deal with a dubious businessman who is to come back later to pick up the commodity in commercial quantity...
In the midst of all these calamities of absurd proportions, [the] General...who is the Lord of Hungeria orders that all activist and members of the public, who dare agitate for a better deal be...'shot at shight...and then ignore what the world would say'... Frankly Onwueme's plays have persistently tried to project issues of poverty, powerlessness, crises of identity, class inequality as well as economic empowerment. Then She Said It obviously has added to her stable, which is flowering with 14...plays and a novel."
Eno-Abasi Sunday, The Guardian Newspapers, December 29. 2001

About the author: Internationally renowned for her award-winning plays, and novels, Dr. Tess Onwueme is Africa's best known female dramatist, whose writing and speaking often poke into taboo and controversial subjects, revealing the untold hidden stories of young women and the poor, who remain caught in various crossfires with; family, tradition, race, class, gender, culture and politics. But then in the growing stampede for material wealth and power in both Africa and the global community today, their striving for voice, place and identity still remain unheard, thus provoking Dr. Tess Onwueme—who commits herself as "a writer with an active conscience" to constantly "stage-a-hearing" for them through her inspiring provocative writing and speaking. That the BBC recently adapted and produced Onwueme's 2001 award-winning play, Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen as a major feature of their BBC World Drama Service for the Fall of 2004, is only one of such recent testimonies, marking the enriching value of Dr. Onwueme’s creative work as a steady staple for the international public, as well as schools, colleges, and universities in international contexts, where her creative writing continue to impact and transform the academic curricular as scholars and teachers continuously adapt as primary teaching texts and tools for teaching, scholarship, theses, and dissertations. In this regard, Onwueme's rich artistic corpus include the following plays and novels: the larger international communities through her drama and fiction publications:

  • What Mama Said (2003)
  • Then She Said it! (2002)
  • Shakara; Dance-Hall Queen (2001)
  • Why the Elephant Has No Butt (2000)
  • Tell It To Women; with Foreword by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1997)
  • The Missing Face; 1st edition (1997)
  • Riot In Heaven (1996)
  • Three Plays: An Anthology of Three Plays by Tess Onwueme (1993)
  • Parables for a Season (1991)
  • Legacies (1989)
  • The Reign of Wazobia (1988)
  • Mirror For Campus: (1987)
  • Ban Other Barn and Other Plays (1986)
  • A Scent Of Onions (1986)
  • The Desert Encroaches (1985)
  • The Broken Calabash (1884)
  • A Hen Too Soon (1983)
  • in additional to her socio-political novels and satires, Why the Elephant Has No Butt (2000), The President’s Bag of Luck.

Her new play, No Vacancy is currently being published , while her witty sensational memoir What I Cannot Tell My Father has recently been completed and awaiting publication.

The prolific Dr. Onwueme, who is married with five children, earned her Ph.D. from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 1988, following both her Masters and Bachelors degrees from the university of Ife, Nigeria in 1982, and 1979, respectively. Dr. Onwueme has won numerous international awards for her creative writing and contributions, including: the Drama Prize of the Association of Nigerian Authors, which Dr. Onwueme has broken all records to win four times with various plays—Then She Said it (2003), Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen (2001), Tell it to Women (1995), and The Desert Encroaches (1985), two substantial awards from the Ford Foundation in both 2000 and 2001, the 1988 Distinguished Authors Award, and the Martin Luther King / Caesar Chavez Distinguished Writer/Scholar Award, 1989/90. Since joining the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Wisconsin in 1994 as a Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and Professor of English after her years of teaching in both Nigerian and American universities, Tess Onwueme continues to gain her steady strides, not just as a role-model for women and youths in the world, but also as a remarkable international writer and speaker, whose inspirational work and talent is steadily shaping and transforming public consciousness of issues impacting black women and youths in postcolonial societies today, while providing the critical resources and texts for scholars, who derive inspiration for their theses and dissertations from her writing in such multidisciplinary contexts as: Women/Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies, Studies of African, Diasporan, Black, Postcolonial, World, Literature, and Drama, together with those critically engaged in vital studies of Gender, Race, Class, especially as these impact underclass women and youths today.

For more information about this author, please visit her website at

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