For information about the show, go to fufu & oreos.
Obehi Janice delivers a thoughtful exploration of the identity struggles she has faced in her life during the 90 minute performance of “fufu & oreos” at the 119 Gallery in Lowell, MA. The show opened on May 13 and will end with performances on May 20, 21 and 22. Throughout the show, Obehi sings, tells anecdotes, and performs skits related to memories of events in her life which shaped her identity as a black-American-Nigerian-Christian woman.
Obehi’s serious exploration of identity in the form of humor keeps the show light and fun. She tells stories from childhood about experiences in the hair salon in which her mother worked. In one story she says, “I knew I was black but I didn’t know I was dark.” She explains that at the mall in which the hair salon was located, she had an unusual experience with a stranger she encountered who proceeded to ignorantly “explain” why her skin was dark. The witty songs, skits, and stories continue non-stop.
The black-American versus Nigerian duality Obehi explores through the “Rima and Rose” skit provides a particularly fresh perspective that really complements the more well-known conflict of black-American versus a white-American dominated culture. In this skit, a very verbose black-American television host gives a lengthy introduction to her Nigerian guest who explains fufu, a Nigerian dish made of pounded yams. The more reserved Nigerian guest demonstrates how fufu is eaten with the hands and tells its significance: “It fills us and we eat it together.” She also posits questions about the ingredients in Oreos, such as vanillin – an artificial flavor, common in American products but not to be found in fufu. This exploration leads into Obehi’s story about her decision to become a vegetarian, a “stamp of whiteness.” Not to mention that she eats fufu with a fork, “which is very wrong.” These statements make the audience think carefuly about which dualities Obehi is exploring at a particular time or if she could be exploring more than one duality at once – is it Nigerian versus American, Nigerian versus black, black versus white, or white versus Nigerian?
Photo by Doug Sparks.
Obehi ends with a humorous song about the men she likes of different ethnic origins and their qualities,
including white men and computer hackers, which not only reveals her possible taste in men but ultimately
summarizes the discoveries she has made about herself in terms of accepting her own varied identies.
In the Q & A afterward, Obehi gave some poignant advice about others experiencing similar identity crises by saying the way she dealt with the situation was by “finding [her] voice and speaking out loud about it.” The creation of “fufu & oreos” represented two years of work in continuing to develop her voice so that she could present it to a wider audience, after performing her first draft at Georgetown University her senior year of college.
On Saturday, the performance was followed by a delicious traditional Nigerian meal, complete with fufu and Oreo cookies. The food provided a tangible way to connect with the imagery presented in the show and to try out the the fufu talked about throughout. The night ended with dancing and socializing, showing that the fufu indeed brought people together.
Food and dance followed the show to complete the night.