“You see why you bitches get raped? You take a man to the heights and let him go and hit his head hard on the ground? You think he is going to let you go, unscarred?”
Joy Isi Bewaji’s Tina’s Shoes and Love Issues tells the story of a woman’s quest for love and a perfect relationship. Significantly, it transcends Tina’s reality and issues. It at once engages the leisure seeker with its interesting narrative and succinctly corroborates the experiences of the regular girl down the street. Tina’s Shoes and Love Issues berths in reality with very profound metaphors that makes it every woman’s shoes. Invariably, the female listeners (in particular) are drawn and itch to reach out and hold a soul sister, a kindred spirit, Tina. (Could Tina talk back at them, possibilities are they would have held a conference on the subject, each recounting her unique yet familiar experience) Consequently, they are led to measure individual failures and successes in relationships by Deji’s rules with metaphorical Tina and her choices as the lightning rod! The men, one is wont to believe, are not left out as they are consciously or unconsciously invited to affirm or negate Deji’s rules, readily drawing support from personal experiences (past or present) with the woman/women in their lives.
Bewaji successfully recreates the larger society with of all of its expectations, assumptions, dynamics, connections and disconnections especially as it concerns the male-female relationship. Through the all-seeing eyes of Tina, the narrator, and her interactions with other characters, listeners are let into the various kinds of relationships that exist in Tina’s world in an engaging manner that makes listeners feel like Tina’s confidants. From the biting reality of hurting relationships like that of the Mrs Jimoh and Mrs Johnson to the regrettable affair of Tina and her ex on to the disappointing stint between Tina and Ben and the unacceptable prospect of Tina and Emmanuel; like a kaleidoscope, reflections of what obtains in the society are relayed such that one can identify a neighbour, a sister, a self in the characters.
Indeed, by not commenting on the actions and choices of the characters that are symbolically at large, the writer in a subtle, yet powerful way stimulates listeners to comment on their own situations and reality. Thus, they are invited like Tina to decide what they really want. Fundamentally the question: What does Tina really want again transcends her, assuming the metaphorical and becoming the critical examination, listeners are invoked to. Tina’s shoes and her reality in the story therefore becomes that neighbour’s shoes, that sister’s story and the attitudes, sometimes mediocre and the beliefs connoted in the Ben’s statement (the opening quote) which should be re-imagined. Again one asks: What does Tina really want? What do people want? Does it really exist? Where does an individual draw the line?
It is also interesting to note that with a subtle echo of the moral ethos of the society (in the form of Deji’s rules) individual will/instinct and societal ideals are juxtaposed to highlight the conflict between both. What if one suddenly realises that were no rules to life and by extension no society to please, would people live life differently? What if people imagined that there really were no rules like one learns at the end of Deji’s list, would they go out of their way to live life like they would have loved to? Are there even any rules especially for relationships? These are some of the questions that run through a listeners mind in the course of the series. In defiance of societal rules, Tina visits Ben and experiences first hand, a kind of relationship she did not want! So doing, she unmasks the intense pretense of finesse the society parades in and chooses to live above it. Tina, unlike Mrs Jimoh and Mrs Johnson refuses to settle or even compromise on the ideals she imagines and in the end, chooses to validate her existence not by a relationship but as an individual primarily and the unique things that define that individuality.
Bewaji weaves this narrative in a fluid manner that is appealing and accurately develops subplots that enables her to project a robust picture of the society she describes. It is noteworthy that despite Tina’s role as the narrator in the work, other characters speak for themselves and tell their own sides without the biased lenses of a narrator. She creatively navigates between a blend of round characters, stock characters and foils to advance her main plot and create a balance in the characterisation. However, it would have been epic and more stirring to experience a good use of vocal variety by the characters especially Tina, as she transits from her various roles (as a narrator, commentator etc besides) in the story.
Regardless, many are the praises of Joy Isi Bewaji’s Tina Shoes and Love Issues. Stylistically, as an art form, it is appealing. In fact, that it is an audio series in two parts of not more than 45 minutes each makes it more so. Not verbose or over stretched that it is loses its value, more like that guest that knows when to leave. It comfortably fits into a drive time companion, rouses the feeling of good-old grandma story-telling and rocking one to sleep at bed time and feels like that good friend you are never too busy to listen to despite the day’s activities. The character, Tina is that friend you always want around, one who understands your issues and stands in your shoes, being in a similar one herself.
The profundity of Tina’s Shoes and Love Issues and the issues raised therein cannot be repudiated. The characters are real, and so are the issues. There is something in it for everyone. Without censure, it replays as it were, daily realities in a tone that makes it trustworthy. Considering that it is difficult to vicariously experience a writer’s point of view or concentrate in an audio, Bewaji drives home a great score for the participatory and stirring manner she delivers the work. She beautifully paints scenes with colourful words such that the actions are not hard to imagine and follow. Thus, for those who are accustomed to the thrills of reading and wonder what this seemingly all-new experience will feel like, you have still found a forte in this.
Name: Yvonne Anoruo
Email address: Justyvonne4u@yahoo.com
Telephone number: 08059744300