Art

Baby shower has a surprising message

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Amy with her new born and singers in Baby Shower, at Kenya Cultural Centre, May 1st, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

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Summary

  • When we initially meet Bobo, it’s right before we are introduced to Amy and her precious newborn baby girl whom she cuddles and promises to cherish.
  • Bobo’s refrain of ‘fear for her future’ is frequently accompanied by singers feeling sorry for the poor girl.

Baby Shower has an intricate plot which had several confusing bits. Staged on May Day at Ukumbi Mdogo, it was produced, directed, and scripted by Martin Odongo.

The main source of confusion is Bobo (Faith Lavenda), whose identity isn’t clarified until almost the end of the play.

Fortunately, I was able to meet Mr. Odongo after the show and ask if Bobo was meant to represent the unborn child of Amy (Nyambura Mwangi) whose paternity is contested. It’s either Amos (Jacob Odero) or Johnteh  (Joseph Okunga) or possibly even Oga (Henry Ebuka).

He says yes; but we didn’t have time for me to tell him Bobo’s identity was the most mystifying aspect of his play.

When we initially meet Bobo, it’s right before we are introduced to Amy and her precious newborn baby girl whom she cuddles and promises to cherish and keep distanced from two despicable men. Only later do we realize she means Amos and Johnteh.

After that, Bobo introduces herself as someone deeply fearful of the future. The cause of her angst isn’t specified, but we assume she’s the same child that Amy has embraced, just a bit older.

Bobo’s refrain of ‘fear for her future’ is frequently accompanied by singers feeling sorry for the poor girl. But why?

Then, to compound the mystery, Bobo appears in another scene where Amos and Amy are still together despite their professed hatred for one another. Amos is especially aggrieved, having discovered Amy is unfaithful to him.

It’s within this context that Bobo appears again to express her love for both parents, so what’s up? How could we have guessed she is meant to be an avatar for an unborn child whose future is threatened by everything from being aborted to being brought up in a loveless home.

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Bobo (R) with Zippy and Wambugu in Baby Shower, at Kenya Cultural Centre, May 1st, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

We don’t yet know that the little girl could’ve been fathered by someone other than Amos, especially when he flashes back to their first night together where he demonstrates crudely, using a hammer, how he hit his peak with his new bride.

‘Wonk’! He slams the bedroom table, and the men in the audience laugh, since they know that means he has ‘scored’. But in so doing, he’s left his new wife unsatisfied and angry that he’s totally neglected her in the process.

Then comes Emelda (Charity Mwangi) who is wife to Johnteh (Joseph Mukunga). She meets Amos in a bar and provides him with a listening ear. She offers advice, and then takes him to her bed. (Marvin Gaye called it ‘Sexual Healing’). This is strange since Johnteh has described his wife as being almost saintly.

Meanwhile, Emelda has discovered Amos’s ‘bad sex’ and accuses him of it. But he can’t understand bad sex might be a factor in his wife’s unhappiness with him and her infidelity. He believes she only married him for his money, which apparently is true.

Finally, we get around to preparations for Amy’s baby shower, which Amos has forgotten. The plot thickens when we learn he has ordered ‘dawa’ meant to abort Amy’s baby. He plans to have Emelda, (whom he introduces to Amy as her new house help) mix the drug (provided by Oga who’s also one of Amy’s lovers) in her drink.

It's only now that we start to see the reason for Bobo’s fear for the future. We also get an inkling that her identity is that of Amy’s unborn baby. But Odengo also seems to suggest Bobo represents every fetus facing the threat of abortion.

More confusion ensues when Amy drinks the dawa and falls deathly ill. Emelda plays dumb and suggests Amy must’ve miscarried. But then, Amy rises from the floor as if nothing happened. She apparently hasn’t lost the baby.

Ultimately, we discover Amos is not responsible for the pregnancies of either Amy or Emelda. Instead, it’s Johnteh who was with Amy, and Oga who was with Emelda. This is not cool.

But rather than deal with the infidelity issue, Odongo seems ultimately concerned with the abortion issue and the plight of all unborn babies who, like Bobo, might have consciousness inside their mother’s womb to think about their future in the same way as Bobo does.

Ultimately, however, the message proclaimed at the end of the play brushes over all these unresolved issues and calls for ‘forgiveness’. The live music in Baby Shower is beautiful as the singers’ finale song is all about forgiveness. But we’re left not knowing even the fate of Bobo, still mystified.