CAST by Amaka Okafor

Cast me in your feature film                                                                                

Cast me in your play,

Cast me in your TV show,

Cast me out of clay.

 

For this one, I shall…….

Straighten my hair-

Ooh no, I don't want to do that.

I'll scrape it back- waaaaay off my face

To see if I can alter the percentage of my race.

 

Long thick black lines

I'll sweep across me eyes,                                                                               

Like a thief on the run,

In need of a disguise.

 

No. Not like… like a thief- like my mother

And her mother.

Like Sita trapped by Ravana

Awaiting her young Rama.

I have the Indian in me,

I just need to bring it out.

 

I've scraped back my hair

(That's mainly from my Dad)

And I've highlighted my eyes

Like the ones my mother has.

 

Is that enough? Will they see it?

Am I Indian enough for this play

And to be in it?

 

Feedback- 'She's articulate, intelligent and she

                    Understands the play- she's good, we

                    Like her a lot but- no.

                    Not typically Indian enough. We liked

                    Her though- and will see her again.'

 

Ok. I saw it coming at me-

I read the script

I learnt the lines

Just didn't look Punjabi.

 

However- do not lose heart

Ladies and gents.

The next play that this prestigious theatre

Was casting for- was a play written by

None other than the one- the only

Legendary Nigerian playwright- Wole Soyinka!

They are looking for-

A huge cast of Nigerian actors-

Not just Nigerian- but Igbo!

 

That's me! Daughter of the chief

Benedict Chucwudebelow Okafor

That's me! Nwamaka Okafor,

Daughter from Esselle.

That's me! Igbo girl extraordinaire,

With no need… needto hide the texture

Of her hair!

 

Cast me in your feature film

Cast me in your play,

Cast me in your TV show,

Cast me out of clay.

 

What……..? They won't see me because

I don't look African enough?

But. I. Am. African.

 

Look, I won’t go on and on

About why they wouldn't see me    

Or other experiences I've had.

Maybe they wouldn't see me

Because… well, I'm just bad.

 

By the ace of God

As an actress I've been working all the time,

But the characters I play

Don't have blood that's mixed like mine.

 

Sometimes they are black

Sometimes they're supposed to be white

(Some director or casting director

Had a broader kind of sight),

 

But mixed- hardly ever……

Maybe never.

 

They give us these boxes

We're supposed to climb into

(Or maybe we're just meant to wear them),

Immediately they can tell who we are

And under which 'ethnic umbrella' they can shove you.

 

I know the industry's racist

And I know it's a thing we must fight,

But maybe our story isn't out there enough,

And I think it's our story to write.

 

Write it and write it

And write it again.

Write it in pencil

Or indelible pen.

On your computer,

Or the fresh morning dew!

Write it for me

And write it for you.

 

As people that are mixed

We hold stories that are rich.

 

As people that are mixed

We hold stories that are rich.

 

As people that are mixed

We hold stories that are rich

 

Amakar Okafor photo by Tenee Attoh