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Posted on October 4, 2022

5 Ways THE WOMAN KING Teaches Events Planners to be Agile

Prelude

The woman king arrives. The birds chirp to a halt. Spectators withhold their sight in awe. Loud whispers wafting through the atmosphere cease. The earth lays still. The rumbling drums herald the magnificent entrance of the victors, as they gallantly match onwards. Beads of sweat trickle down their bronzed skin into the red sand. 

It’s another tale of triumph for heroines who do not wear capes but are adorned with cowries and braided crowns on their heads. Amongst them is a leader, glaring ferociously with her troop. They set out to conquer, and their only mantra is victory…

Viola Davis in The Woman King, marching with the agoji to the battlefield to defeat the Oyo empire
The Agoji, led by Nanisca (Viola Davis), marching to the battlefield to overthrow the Oyo empire. Source: Deadline

The Woman King Synopsis

It’s no surprise that ‘The Woman King,’ courtesy of Sony Pictures, has been widely acclaimed for debunking revisionist history, by telling an authentic story. 

Featuring Viola Davis (General Nanisca), John Boyega (King Ghezo), Lashana Lynch (Izogie), and Thuso Mbedu (Nawi), the film spotlights the female warriors of the kingdom of Dahomey⇁presently the Benin Republic, who tirelessly defended their people in sweat and blood. Following the defeat of the Oyo Empire and European slavers, Dahomey remains an unshakable kingdom,

You might wonder—what’s the connection between ‘The Woman King’ and event planning? You’ll be amazed by the number of lessons from the film that apply to the process of planning events. There are so much event planners can learn from the battle training, ceremonies, town hall meetings, and epic dialogue of the characters to the behind-the-scenes preparations. 

Who are the Agoji warriors?

The woman king actors. Nanisca as Thuso Mbedu and her fellow Agoji recruits at training with Izogie as Lashana Lynch and Gen. Nanisca as Viola Davis.
Nawi is being trained by Izogie and Gen. Nanisca in the palace. Source: Sony Pictures

The Agoji, AKA Ahosi or wives of the king, was a platoon of female warriors who fought for Dahomey in the 17th century. Membership into the fold was determined by bravery and strength, as recruits were subject to a series of tests to prove themselves worthy. 

The Agoji received combat training and mental reorientation exercises in the palace; their indifference to pain and death was tested. The all-female militia was formed by King Houegbadja, the third king of Dahomey, and grew exponentially under King Ghezo’s regime.  

Every woman who became Agoiji, either through captivity or free will, was forbidden from marriage and bearing children. They were solely committed to the king in marriage and took a vow of chastity.

You should also know that the all-woman Dora Milaje regiment featured in Black Panther is based on Dahomey’s Agoji warriors.

Is The Woman King a true story?

When The Woman King film premiered in September 2022, viewers who had no prior knowledge about the Dahomey kingdom and its Agoji warriors were propelled to confirm whether the film was produced on facts or mere sensation. It appears that the core framework of the story stems from real experiences. Although, it’s also fictional to a large extent. 

However, the historical representation of Africa in ‘The Woman King’, is applaudable. The dramatization of the events does not in any way undermine the originality of the storytelling. It further celebrates the eminence of victory from an African perspective.

In an interview with LA Times, Gina Prince-Bythewood (the film’s director) states that there’s a tremendous amount of truth in it, even though it’s not a documentary. ‘When you look up Dahomey and the Agojie, you’ll see that there’s only one book on it. And it’s a book that’s offensive.’

5 lessons to learn from ‘The Woman King’ for event planning

In this section, we’ll review the lessons from ‘The Woman King’ that are useful for event planners who are on the verge of hosting their next event, starting with a brief history of the Agoji.

Here are 5 things event planners can learn from ‘The Woman King’ film:

1. Diversity and inclusivity in communication

'The Woman King.' Viola Davis on the left as Nanisca and John Boyega on the right as King Ghezo
‘The Woman King.’ Viola Davis (left) as Nanisca and John Boyega (right) as King Ghezo  Source: Sony Pictures

The world is a global village with varying communication models and languages. Technology bridges the communication gap between cultures, which is formed from the inability to comprehend foreign languages. Event planners need to prioritize multilingual translation solutions during events, keeping in mind that attendees belong to diverse cultures. The need to network and form meaningful connections is crucial and is enabled through language. Various translation services can come in handy during such international events to make the right connections.

There were occasions in the film when indigenes of Dahomey communicated with the Portuguese traders, and in those scenes, they spoke Portuguese. Unfortunately, there was no software for language translation back then. 

King Ghezo of Dahomey, uttered a humorous statement to a Portuguese general, ‘Speak my language when you’re in my palace.’ You don’t want to compel your guests to communicate in a language they aren’t familiar with. It’s more inclusive to provide them with solutions to personalize their communication experience

2. Mishaps are inevitable: Be Resourceful

It’s almost impossible not to encounter challenges on the day of the event and even during its preparation. First, you need to accept that you could face some difficulties and be prepared to resolve them. 

Draw up a list of things that could threaten the success of your event and generate possible solutions to them. You also need to be resourceful in dealing with challenges, sometimes standard procedures don’t solve problems. It may be those creative solutions you generate on the spot that does the trick. As Nawi said, ‘Gunpowder doesn’t always need a gun to create a spark.’ In this context means that there are different ways to solve a problem. 

Every backup plan must have a backup plan. Ensure that you have ample equipment, refreshment, multiple speakers in case one declines, as well as insurance for your venue if you’re hosting an in-person event.

Before the final battle with the Oyo Empire, notice that Nanisca and some Agoji had to survey their enemy’s boot camp to develop strategies to win the war. Aside from the events that occurred in the movie, the cast experienced some obstacles on set. In an interview with CN Traveler, Polly Morgan (the film’s cinematographer) states ‘Sixty-five percent of the crew tested positive. We shut down for six weeks.’ As in-person events are returning back to normal, it’s important to prioritize safety measures to curb disease outbreaks during the event. 

3. Go hard or go home

Izogie, an Agoji from the woman king, in combat with the Oyo warriors.
Izogie (Lashana Lynch) in combat with the Oyo warriors. Source: Ilze Kitshoff as cited on Polygon

Event planning isn’t a day’s job. As an event planner, you can attest to all the numerous calls, emails, and most especially late-night work. Events are a great way to generate leads, strengthen relationships with partners and clients, and position yourself as a global enterprise.

Therefore, your events have to align with the industry’s best practices to succeed on a grand scale. If you need to conduct multiple test runs, adopt multiple event strategies, and outsource talents, do them professionally.

While on set, the cast and crew didn’t have much time. They filmed for six days in a week and the crew would still work together on the seventh day to plan ahead for the following week. In the same vein, event planning is a dedicated full-time project. Planning great events requires a lot of work. Event planners need to be physically and mentally prepared to embrace all the pros and cons that come with it.

4. Location Matters – a lot

In-person event planners, gather here; this one’s for you! Avoid a venue that doesn’t match the purpose of the event, let alone turn a blind eye to some factors that could trigger chaos.  

The location is as important as the event itself. It’s like hosting an event in an open space without checking weather reports. Contrarily, some sporting events like the FIFA World cup could be better suited for outdoor locations, because of the kind of experience it provides spectators. You also don’t want to host in-person events in areas where COVID is still predominant. Ensure you do enough research to know what works best—whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid. And If it’s an in-person, choose the right venue to avoid disappointments.

Morgan also revealed on CN Traveler that the crew wasn’t only fixated on beautiful locations but also locations that worked with the path of the sun. Because they had a tight schedule on the shoot and relied heavily on a lot of natural light. 

Additionally, there were times when the natural lighting on set wasn’t consistent, so they had to shoot some scenes in the early hours to obtain the desired effect. That was the solution they provided to suppress the challenge of lighting. It’s basically the same process event planners go through—be meticulous about your choice of location and provide solutions to problems that could emerge on-site.

5. Test-run the entire system

Testing your sound systems, and cameras are important to have quality production. However, don’t forget to double-check your guest list, communication strategies, security systems, bookings, and reservations to ensure that they’re error-free. 

It’s not enough to assume that one test run is enough for event preparation. Ensure you test your overall strategies multiple times and optimize your security systems; even on the day of the event before guests begin to arrive. 

If you’d recall, the scene in the movie where Oba Ade of the Oyo empire intrudes on the ceremony at Dahomey to demand their tributes is synonymous with having unwanted entries into your event, whether it be virtual or in-person. A great solution would be leveraging access control technologies for a more secure entry management system. 

Breast Cancer Awareness: channeling the warrior spirit from ‘The Woman King’ 

The woman king Agoji warrior, Izogie, stands ready for a fight
Izogie stands ready for combat. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures as cited in Polygon

There is a warrior spirit in every breast cancer survivor. In The Woman King, we celebrate the gilded strength every female warrior embodies in fighting for the survival of their people. Through all of their conquests and raids, three themes remain constant—hope, courage, and love for the sisterhood. 

As we join hands together in this month of October to support our loved ones, friends, families, and colleagues who are battling breast cancer, let’s stay hopeful, utter words of love and encouragement to them, and stay resilient in fighting for their survival.

In the words of General Nanisca, ‘we do not act alone. We move together with one purpose. Alone you’re weak’ Let’s keep our heads held high to support the united front against breast cancer.

Lastly, to the ones we’ve lost, our hearts go out to you. We applaud your courage. Rest on, warriors!

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