I really enjoyed seeing the movie Mother of George. Not only was it beautifully shot by Director Andrew Dosunmu (granted some of the scenes were a little long for my taste) but the storyline definitely hit close to home. In the film, a young Nigerian couple gets married; only to find out they can’t conceive. Now as many things in our tradition, a private and delicate matter quickly becomes a public family issue.
The woman, Adenike, decides to take her mother-in-law’s advice and find another way to get pregnant. She goes through extreme measures to ensure that she is able to finally give her husband a child. I won’t spoil it for you but I must say I was a bit shocked by her decision. Though it is hard to judge a woman who is in such a desperate situation. Having lived in Guinea for 7 years and having lived surrounded by Africans my whole life, I had never heard of anyone taking such drastic measures to conceive. This just goes to show that even when we are born in this environment, we are sometimes oblivious to what is actually going on around us. In this case, the story takes place away from Nigeria in Brooklyn, NY and still the couple is confronted with the same stigma.
The onus always seems to be placed on the woman when it comes to infertility in a marriage. In this case, it was no different. Though Adenike tried to convince her husband to accompany her to the doctor in order to get tested, he stubbornly refused asking her to “trust him”. All too often, the woman is blamed for not producing a child and the man, well he’s never the one with the problem. At least in this case, the husband did not agree to take a second wife and did not put pressure on his wife to have a child (though it was clear that he really wanted one). Perhaps he didn’t want to face the possible shame? Sadly, this is the way women in this situation feel every day when they are not able to bear a child. The film really shows what a woman will go through to please her partner, her in laws, her family and even in a way prove to herself that she is still “a woman”.
The writer, Darci Picoult, actually explained that what inspired her to write this screenplay was the fact that she had tried for a very long time to conceive without success. She later adopted a child, but the whole point was for her to shed light on this issue and to really show how it affects different characters in different ways. Danai Gurira who played the main character in the movie, explained that it was not so much a Yoruba-specific issue (this happens in other countries as well), what she liked most was seeing the different characters’ involvement and how they dealt with the issue.
For years my aunt could not conceive. Both she and her husband were committed to each other and so even with his mother’s pressuring, he did not succumb and take a second wife. He did not want to get tested because he claimed he was perfectly healthy. After 15 years of marriage and constant pressure from his mother, he finally succumbed and married a second wife. Guess what? She was also unable to conceive! Once again, the blame was put on the woman only to find out she was not the problem.
During the Q&A, one of the actors mentioned something along the lines of: “The western world has fertility drugs, surrogates…to help women conceive, we Africans were doing it our way long before”. I guess this is true, however, I do believe that we need to bring the problem of infertility to light. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen any campaigns revolving around infertility issues in Guinea. It seems to be a taboo subject. It’s as if families find a way to work around it without ever having to address the real problem. No one speaks of it. Things are dealt with and kept secret. I think the more we talk about the issue, the more people will start to understand that it isn’t always the woman’s fault and that there are ways to deal with this problem. I do hope that Mother of Goerge will make it to other parts of Africa so we can get a dialogue going.
Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts?