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
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?