Ruth S. Opara, Assistant Professor, Art and Music Histories, Syracuse University
Growing up in Southeastern Nigeria, music and dance was an integral part of our girlhood. As most of our training and activities are geared towards molding us into better women, desirable maidens for marriage, and subsequently good wives, the girl’s dances also serve this purpose. However, gender-based violence affects this process in music performance spaces. This paper examines the Avu Udu (a pot drum dance among Owerri, Igbo girls in southeastern Nigeria) to reveal how girls utilize music to resist traditional gender norms and protect themselves from a society that ignores their psychological well-being and fails to protect them from gender-based violence. Due to the complexity of the girls’ performances and lived experiences, this paper further addresses a range of issues. The analyses of selected songs, dances, bodily gestures, and lived experiences of the girl dancers (between ages six to fifteen) show that the viability and sustainability of Avu Udu depend on the Igbo conventional archetypes of patriarchy. Narratives, history, and existing scholarship account for changes in Avu udu dance that are due to transformations in Nigeria’s social, political, and economic conditions. The roles music play in shaping the girl child and her response informs the intersections of music, gender, and resistance, in Igbo, Nigerian culture. This research places the African girl child at the center of the timely issues concerning social justice.
This event was published on November 12, 2021.