ENE: The Girl Child



Written By Balogun Adenike


Painting by Silas Onoja


Ene is painted by Silas Onoja in 2018.

The canvas on which Ene is painted measures

36 inches by 47 inches and the piece is done in

oil paint.

It is a painting of a girl child in a colorful dress

displayed from the waist up, against a white background. She opens the lapel of her dress showing her nipple and looks straight into the viewers’


Her hair’s greying.
The girl seems to have stopped suddenly to lock eyes with the viewers. Her eyes reacting

differently. She’s curious and bothered by

something she sees, looking at her left eye. The ears too, picking words from a distance.

The interaction between her eyes and the

viewer’s is the real focal point in the painting.

Ene is a constant reminder of the place of the girl child in the African societies. The ordeals they

go through from cradle to grave, the battles they

fight and conquer on their sexuality.

Some days back I had an actual experience of

how some men see the girl child. It’s been a total realization of how girls are put in bondage

because of their sexuality, the pains experienced

in the bondage is the evident of her grey hairs

even though she is still that little girl.

So a girl has to be given out in marriage at an

early age to prevent her from being promiscuous or a girl has to be sexually harassed because she is busty, beautiful and has a full body.

It is also a reminiscence of how much

responsibilities parents and the society place on  young children, girls. You bring them into the

world amidst joy and gladness and as they grow, you put them at the mercy of the harsh

patriarchal society and they must survive in it.

On the streets I see girls not old enough to be out, hawking daily needs at the wee hours of the

morning into the dead of the night. They go about with metallic, plastic or wooden trays with

chipped edges on their heads, dressed in clothes near tatters. Or they may be bits and pieces of

the memories of children seen at various motor

parks clinging to the body of travelers, begging

for money or edibles across the states in Nigeria. These children as young as they are, are already burdened with survival and life’s problems. This

painting still speaks to us concerning the giving

out of young girls as brides to dying old men.

The children in Onoja’s works are often depicted

in an expressive facade that tells to the uniformity in his subject matter.
This is a painting that passes a subtle message

on the emancipation of women. That there’s a

whole lot going on inside aside the outward look. That the society is changing and women are

standing up to liberate themselves.

Onoja uses a girl child as it is only through a child we can understand true feelings. We are already complicated as adults.

Do you think the African girl child is being represented well? Or not?



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