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[whitespace] Amma Ready for HBO: Amma's one-woman show, 'In Search of My Clitoris,' is a rollicking roller-coaster ride through a strange cultural landscape.

Photograph by Steve Savage

Cutting-Edge Humor

Sia Amma turned an unacceptable loss into a provocative comedy routine

By Sarah Coleman

THE LIBERIAN COMEDIAN Sia Amma sweeps majestically into the theater, a basket in one hand and a straw brush in the other. "Excuse me, I'm looking for my clitoris," she announces. "Do any of you have it? Have you seen it over there?"

Amma isn't sexually naive or biologically uninformed: She's literally lost what she calls "the seat of power for women." Back in Liberia, she was circumcised at the age of 9, though she tells us that she didn't fully understand what had happened to her until years later when she tuned in to Oprah one day to see a man waving his hand over a diagram of a vagina. That's when she learned to recognize her "hygienic" circumcision as a mutilation--and to know what she'd lost.

"I was ANGRY!" she shouts. "They tell you in this country, don't sweat the small stuff. Well, I'm telling you, a clitoris is not the small stuff. A clitoris is THE BOMB!"

The audience--80 percent female, 80 percent white--explodes with laughter, which continues much of the way through Amma's monologue. While female circumcision is obviously no laughing matter in itself, Amma finds an improbable amount of humor as she dishes up her life story with impeccable comic timing.

"Even when I was a child, my mouth was bigger than Linda Tripp's," she declares, sashaying across the stage. "You've heard of [Hillary Clinton's] book, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child? Well, it took a whole village to shut me up."

I believe it. Throughout the show, Amma takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride through a strange cultural landscape, one in which a bomoe (tribal circumciser) tells her that, if uncut, her clitoris will grow so long she won't be able to walk, and an American doctor attempts to bond with her over the loss of his foreskin. This is vexing, difficult subject matter, and Amma does justice to its complexities--she points out, for example, that when African women are educated from birth to see the clitoris as dirty, you can't expect them to stop performing clitoridectomies overnight.

Amma is able to convey a visceral sense of her loss while also refusing to wallow in her victimhood. Toward the end, her sassy stand-up routine gives way to a terrifying scene where she reenacts her toma (circumcision ceremony), and I'm sure no audience member will ever forget it.

As we walked out of the theater, I heard a fan telling her, "You're ready for HBO!" It's an intriguing thought. Received wisdom tells us that people want to hear about female circumcision about as much as they want to hear about flesh-eating bacteria--but Sia Amma proves that a little education can be a wonderful thing.

In Search of My Clitoris plays at 8pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $13/students, $16/general, and can be purchased at Herland Books or at the door. For more information call 831.429.6636.

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From the October 3-10, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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