Title: Review of Sweet Taste of Shame
Author: Elaigwu Ameh
Publisher: University Press Plc
Reviewer: Francis Jakpor
In a society that perceives childlessness as a stigma and constrains females to produce offspring by hook or crook, Elaigwu Ameh’s Sweet Taste of Shame is timely. Indeed, it is a wake-up call to action against such social vices as child trafficking and debasement of women – including the prematurely pregnant – all of which are tearing a hole in our nation’s fabric.
The 73-page play chronicles this scourge through Ene, a 16-year-old student who is raped by her father, discovers she is pregnant and seeks refuge in an orphanage to bury her shame. But to her dismay, the orphanage turns out to be a baby factory which exploits not only several girls her age for childbirth, but is also patronised by her Mum who has been barren for years and faced all the humiliation that goes with it.
The focus of the play is multi-pronged, but two major themes running through are sure to resonate with readers. First, it unveils the circumstances that drive many youths into a life of crime. Poverty features prominently on the list, as well as unemployment and societal/peer pressure. Then again, it probes the growing perception of women as sex objects meant to satisfy the lust of the male gender – oftentimes against their will.
But much more than that, Sweet Taste of Shame has that extra appeal because the story line is true to life. The Nigerian media, for instance, has been awash with stories about orphanages that double as baby factories. The practice is particularly rampant in the South-Eastern part of the country, where children are often sold for pecuniary benefits. Such babies often end up as sex slaves, are used for ritual purposes or worse. Earlier this year, rights group Campaign for Democracy disclosed that about 2500 teenagers had been rescued from ‘baby factories’ across the region in the last one year. The victims, mostly pregnant minors, were freed by the Police and other security agencies from the various illegal orphanages where they were held captive.
Rape incidents are no less rampant – most ranging from incest to paedophilia. But ours is a society where victims often keep sealed lips for fear of being blamed or ostracised. Elaigwu questions this state of affairs by having Ene speak up and point fingers at her dad Inspector Monday when her pregnancy becomes apparent. She makes her disdain for him clear when he tries to get chummy, and finally seeks refuge outside her home when she can no longer put up with his unnatural advances.
Indeed, Elaigwu seems to probe the moral fabric of a society where even the Police are implicated in such crimes. After all, in Sweet Taste of Shame, Cash Madam, the owner of a child trafficking ring, boasts about being untouchable thanks to her political connections which extend to the police force.
To make a long story short, Sweet Taste of Shame is one of those rare satires sorely needed at this point in our nation’s history. The writer, who is currently a Special Assistant to the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, has bagged several creative writing awards and obviously knows his onions. A social analyst and development communicator – with a first class honours degree in Philosophy from the University of Zimbabwe and a Master’s in Development Communication from the University of Zaria – he seems to argue that there is a need for more awareness about happenings in our society if we must drive change, and the revolutionary play actually goes to great lengths to prove that.