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Women of the Civil War: A Review of Afia

The documentary Afia Attack shows the efforts of women during the Nigerian Civil War. The narratives so far are centred around men, ignoring those who had to tend children and homes left behind by men.

While this is admirable in intent, the final film doesn’t quite get up to those of those lofty ideals.

For a film purporting to show women’s place in the war, women don’t exactly show up till later, even if Afia Attack–essentially, a rummaging behind enemy lines for commodities like salt and stockfish–was run by women from different homes. It is the peculiar nature of Nigerian that no figures are given about the number of women who crossed over to Nigeria to trade so they could take care of the families.

Ben Gbulie and Ikechukwu Ume-Udeh are the films first few respondents. Gbulie wrote an account of the war and is quite engaging, but the film belongs to Esther Ekweozor, a woman now in her 80s. Her account doesn’t quite spare Biafra soldiers, who, she says, were guilty of crimes against their own people. Some women were forced into affairs and some locked up. She is expressive like someone who has waited a long time to tell her tale.

Scenes are punctuated by the piercing voice of a woman, an inclusion that seems to be put in for gravitas and some length. These scenes alternate from kitsch to effective.

Yet for its flaws, the documentary Afia Attack does bring news to those who were unawares about women’s role in the war. It is a personal project by Ujuakwu Nwakalor-Akukwe that the public should hear.

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