In our time


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In our time


Nigerian literature (English)


This play is unique in the Onitsha collection for several important reasons.It was written just after the Biafran War, described by the playwright as "the shooting war," (pg.2). Additionally, it has a definite production history. It was performed for two short runs in Onitsha and Enugu where Nonye Eneanya and Mrs. Ngozi Egwuatu are identified as the producers. It was presumably performed for and/or by Onitsha's Anglican Girls' Grammar School that was destroyed in the war. There is also clear indication as to how the set at one of the performances appeared, for as the introduction notes "the classroom scene where some of the pupils sit on cement blocks and use their knees for a desk recreates a clear picture of the plight of pupils in damaged educational institutions," (pg.2).

Nonye Eneanya, a member of the teaching staff at the Anglican Girls' Grammar School, uses the conventions of realism to attempt to document the war and its aftermath on the area. The play's language is a mixture of English and Igbo,and many high quality woodcuts and illustrations enhance the story. However,the play does have significant problems, possibly because it was written "on the spur of the moment" by Eneanya, (pg.1). Time and a sense of causation are underdeveloped at times. Yet In Our Time relates a strong message about the effects of the war when stage directions and set descriptions create a sense of place and time.

The prologue provides much of the context of the Biafran war and its aftermath. The narrator creates an atmosphere of hopelessness and optimism: Brother had plucked yet another brother in the course of a fratricidal conflict that had been raging for nearly three years, (pg.5). For an observer of the Nigerian civil war the picture was still real as at January 1, 1970. He therefore believed that the Nigerian conflict would never end...But it did end, miraculously too . . . the soldiers threw away their guns to rush into their opponents [sic] arms in warm embrace, (pg.6-7).

This play appears to be very much influenced by these bipolar impulses. The Dimgba family has suffered greatly from the war. They were a well-to-do family that lost their livelihoods during the war and moved away from Lagos. Their children are unable to attend school throughout the war and the schools in the area are destroyed.

The play opens with the announcement that the schools are reopening and no fees will be charged. However, this is a promise that cannot be kept and the children are eventually kicked out of their classes because they cannot pay the school fees. The husband, unable to cope with the shame and his inability to provide for his children, reacts violently. The wife provides solutions and demands respect for her daughters and herself. She will not let her husband marry them off and get drunk from the money received from their future husbands' families. In its use of realistic conventions, this play calls for respect for women and their contributions to the family. For example, Mrs.Dimgba confronts Mr. Dimgba and retorts: "You scold and howl at me like an outcast. Why should you shout on me? I'm neither your housemaid nor you slave, mark you," (pg.16).

However, the two scenes that are the most realistic do very little to actually move the story forward. In the first, Mrs. Dimgba visits money lenders to secure school fees. Two of the lenders are hostile towards her, presumably because of their positions during the war. A relief organization is mentioned as well as an amnesty act. However the scene does not develop this conflict or make it an important part of creating a sense of reconciliation between the two sides.

The scene in the classroom emphasizes the devastation to the schools and the poverty of the students and teachers. One of the science teachers has a blackboard image of a chemistry experiment that she is teaching the class. It is apparent that she does not have any of the equipment for the students to actually do the experiment, and consequently the students are unable to learn the concepts of this experiment. This scene does not have any of the Dimgba children in class. So there is no sense of consequence, causation or development that could lead to the play's overly hopefully ending. The play ends on an impossibly optimistic note as all of the children excel in school and receive scholarships while Mr. Dimgba gets his job back.


Eneanya, Nonye


Onitsha, Nigeria : University Publishing Co.




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Onitsha market literature





Eneanya, Nonye, “In our time,” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed March 3, 2024,