As the festive energy began to falter, Lola Shoneyin assured the crowd of the creative twists and turns in ‘Henna’ with conviction and how the director Ishaya Bako’s London schedules didn’t give him the permission to attend.
The short film which began screening at 7: 10pm opened with a northern Nigerian wedding scene. The henna-streaked hands of the bride, ululations, clanging metals on calabashes and ostentatious display of colorful attires served as a prologue to the ensuing drama of early marriage. The heroine, Reina, alongside her father’s young bride who had a stillborn, ended up being affected with Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and who later died was a moment of epiphany for Reina. She defied tradition and culture to confront her would-be husband at the mosque before prayers to exert her right of choice and what Allah Had stipulated in situations that mirrored her own. The plight of the traditional docile northern woman is portrayed to confront that of an educated modern woman. Though having a cliched plot, the thematic concerns couldn’t have been expressed at a better time. The wish of the imam to let Reina finish her school in the last scene – wedding day; as well as sponsoring her education was an unexpected twist that is ambiguous: we don’t know if he wishes to carry out these promises after the marriage, or before the marriage. Given the patriarchal nature of northern societies, we are not sure if he will honor his words after the marriage. Or maybe the words were a curtain of deceit to get her into his house. Uncertainty looms large in the picture. The movie’s end signaled the closing of the day’s proceedings.