Monday’s Girls

Country of Origin: ,
Running Time: 50 min


Monday’s Girls, directed by the British-Nigerian filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah, opens by introducing the viewer to two young women from Ogoloma, a fishing town in the southern Rivers State of Nigeria as they prepare for Iria, a five-week ritual meant to prepare girls for marriage. Both girls are from prominent families in the town, but while Florence, who was raised in Ogoloma, is eager and proud to participate in the tradition, Asikiye, a music student who is returning from the city for the first time in 10 years, has only come at the persuasion of her parents, and is determined to only participate in the aspects of the ceremony that she is comfortable with.

The primary point of contention comes when Asikiye refuses to bare her breasts during a part of the ritual in which the iriabos (girls participating in Iria) are supposed to appear bare-chested before the entire town to have their bodies examined by a council of elder women (the leader of this council, Monday Moses, gives the film its title) to ensure that they have been chaste. In one particularly compelling scene, Florence, having passed the test, picks up a ticket certifying her chastity from the male council of chiefs to the sounds of drumming and the applause of the entire town, while Asikiye sits in a darkened room, her face painted with the elaborate designs of the other iriabos but having refused to be a part of the ritual, angrily venting her frustrations to an unseen woman.

Asikiye is sent home in disgrace but unrepentant, and the focus of the film temporarily shifts to Florence and the other iriabos during their time in the “fattening rooms,” where they undergo a month-long period of seclusion and relative immobility, aided by heavy bronze rings fitted on their legs, so that when they emerge from the rooms they will be plump and ready for marriage. The film offers a complex view of this ceremony – Florence describes enjoying her time eating and resting, and being made to feel attractive and appreciated, but also acknowledges that her legs are uncomfortable and she is tired of being in the rooms. She receives advice from the older women on how to breastfeed as well as how to please a husband by being submissive as we see shots of Asikiye dancing with a man in a nightclub. The division between tradition and modernity is also not clear cut — Asikiye clearly lives a more ‘modern’ life than those in Ogoloma, but Florence, who we learn identifies as a Christian, listens to hip hop and reggae on the radio while in the fattening rooms, and ultimately decides to finish her education before getting married.

Ultimately, Monday’s Girls provides an in-depth look at a multifaceted tradition, depicts the costs and benefits of different paths available to women in a changing society, and introduces us to two thoughtful and very distinct characters who are firm in the choices they make for themselves.


Initiation ceremony, marriage, Nigeria, women, tradition vs modernity, Iria


Anderson, Melissa. Review of Becoming a Woman in Okrika by Judith Gleason, Elisa Mereghetti and Monday’s Girls by Ngozi Onwurah. African Arts vol. 29 no. 4, 1996, pp. 76-78, 96. Accessed 21 Jan 2016.



Sa-I-Gu (Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, 1993)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 36 min

Format: Color, DVD (NTSC)

Distributor: Center for Asian American Media

Sa-I-Gu, literally translated in Korean as April 29 is the day of the 1992 Los Angeles riot following the trial of Rodney King. Three months after Sa-I-Gu, the documentary explores the experience of the Korean American women who was “caught” in the LA crisis. The documentary tells the story of the mother of Edward Jae Song Lee, the only Korean who died during the riot, along with interviews of Korean American women. These accounts portray the financial, psychological, and personal losses of the community, and their American dreams turned upside down.

Women express their mistrust, frustration, confusion, and disappointment towards African-Americans and the U.S. government in the aftermath of Sa-I-Gu. The documentary attend to what Korean women interpret as the cause of Sa-I-Gu: the media’s biased focus on Black and Korean conflict, gap between the rich and the poor, and the failure of the LA police and the government to react. The documentary also portrays how these women are coping with the lingering battle against the government for compensation, providing a ground for a reexamination of the real content of the American dream.

The documentary fills in a void in the media coverage that neglected to present an accurate representation of the experience of the Korean community. Dai Sil Kim-Gibson says that they produced the documentary “to give voice to the voiceless victims i.e. Korean American shopkeepers and shop owners who lost everything during the Los Angeles upheaval.” By portraying their experience in human terms with great honesty, the documentary provides a more complete picture of the LA crisis.

The documentary was showcased as P.O.V series on National PBS Broadcast at the time of its release. It received the Bronze Plaque Award at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival as well as the Bronze Award at the Houston International Film Festival and the Rosebud Award from Washington, DC.

Descriptors: Korean American, race relations, Los Angeles Riot, Immigration

For further information:

On the Film:

On the L.A. Riot and its impact on Korean American:

  • Abelmann, Nancy. Lie, John. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1997

On the Director:

The Ballad of Little Jo (Dir: Maggie Greenwald, 1993)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 120 min

Formatting: 35 mm, color

The Ballad of Little Jo (Maggie Greenwald, 1993) is a full-length feature film set in the Old West. It does not, however, fit into the stereotype of Western genre films. First of all, the protagonist is a woman, Josephine (Suzy Amis) albeit one who is dressed as a man. After being kicked out by her East Coast family for having an illegitimate child, she heads out west only to find that it is a difficult place for a woman. Subsequently, she disguises herself as a man. The film focuses on women’s roles in the west in several different forms – naive, good girl, experienced wife, and beautiful prostitute. The women that appear throughout the film offer small vignettes of the types of women who lived in the west and the difficulties that they faced. We meet Mary (Heather Graham) an innocent and good young woman who falls for Jo but settles on a man who offers her the ticket out of Ruby City. Mary’s beauty and good nature are her only assets that she can use to escape the run-down mining town. We also meet Ruth Badger (Carrie Snodgrass) a knowledgeable and powerful woman who, although we only see her for a few minutes, shows her knowledge of home cures and her “get it done” attitude. We also find out that she has had eight children and that her husband has cheated on her. She was the stereotypical tough wife of the west, yet also one who dealt with a cheating husband. The character of the prostitute is the final reincarnation of the western woman. Our first vision of her is on a white horse, delicately clad, a romantic and beautiful image. Our last vision of her is riding dejected after being badly beaten by a customer. Our ideas about women’s roles in the west is constantly challenged in this film as we see each woman harshly treated by the Old West, yet also, somehow, surviving.
One of my problems with the film is the fact that Jo as a woman seemed to be completely helpless. The dichotomy between Jo as female and Jo as a male was practically between Jo as child and Jo as adult. Many of the transformation of Jo into a man seemed like a young man’s coming of age story more than a transformation from woman to man. An illustrative example is the scene where Jo faces the wolf that wants to kill his flock. Jo acts afraid, cowering and losing a sheep. She eventually overcomes her fear to become more successful in her male role. Part of me wanted to see a strong Josephine to counterbalance a strong Jo.
As to the enjoyment of watching this movie, the movie is a worthwhile one especially if you are paying careful attention to gender issues throughout the movie; however, the movie can drag at times. The nature of the film asks for a certain quiet, necessary to the setting in the West and to Jo’s life, but also necessary to provide some quiet between the intense scenes of violence and drama. While other films, such as Brokeback Mountain, succeed in this mix of quiet and drama, Jo lacks either the internal tension or, alternatively, the internal quiet necessary to carry these scenes. On the whole, despite its occasional lulls and some faults in Jo’s character, a worthwhile movie for its deconstructing of the Western genre and its explorations of gender.