Mona Eltahawy is the author of Headscarves and Hymens and Pius Adesanmi author of Naija No Dey Carry Last sit with Kadaria Ahmed, acclaimed journalist, for a book chat. Kadaria serves as the moderator and she opens the discourse with brief introductions of the guests.
The book chat between the satire king Pius and the feminist queen Mona is arguably one of the most controversial and interesting book chats of the entire festival. Mona who has taken it upon herself to outspokenly champion the feminist movement at every panel and chat she has been involved in from the start of the festival questions the reason behind the absence of men in the front row seats.
“Is it because of what I said yesterday?”
Laughter erupts as everyone present is eager to see what transpires when you take a man such as Pius who is adept at being sarcastic and blunt then pair him with one of the most outspoken, passionate and brash voices in Africa today. The discourse begins and being in that room it is nothing short of spectacular.
Pius controls the microphone, with a nod to Mona; he explains his art form of taking the written satire and transforming it into a weapon of bitter truth and swift reflection. He is on top of the questions from Kadaria, dropping humorous anecdotes and caustic comments on issues affecting the country’s political scene and how his words have often caused the head wearing the cap to sweat. He says “that’s what I do; I make them constantly laugh bitterly about something they should be crying about”. However, he reminds us that his words are not carefully woven only to provide us with quick humor. There is much expected after the laughter. He gets into the heart of the matter and shares his belief that “we are so fundamentally fucked in this country” and hopes one day we can extricate ourselves from the mess we’ve gotten entangled with.
On the one hand, there is Pius with his subtly vicious approach to the battle against mediocrity and social evils and on the other hand we have Mona, the sniper who writes her name on every bullet. Mona is open, direct and vicious with her attacks and according to her this is not a battle for sugar-coated censored words.
She has a mission and knows it is not for the fainthearted. Mona having studied the ills and effects of the wrongdoings on the society believes, in her book, she brings them all to fore and talks about them head on. Headscarves and Hymens, as the book is called, is written as more of reportage than fiction and gives her account of the battle against the oppression that has sought to constantly silence her and rob her of her opinion as a true feminist and a Muslim woman.
Mona battles the patriarchy and cites a comment from an earlier discussion about the trifecta of the patriarchy which is “the state, the street and the home”. When asked if she intentionally chooses to instigate and incite people, she lets us know this is simply who she is and she will unapologetically remain this way to combat the societal evils.
Mona spits bullets of fire that you cannot help but listen to and understand just where it is her mission is taking her and just how dedicated and driven she is towards achieving her goal. Mona is a powerhouse and it is evident when her response to a rather irrelevant question causes an uproar of excitement in the crowd and scattered hushed discussions which lead to Kadaria reminding us she is the moderator.
By the end of the book chat there is a burning sensation of fulfilment for a morning well spent. It was indeed the type of book chat many of us had been longing for.