A BREIF REVIEW OF WOLE SOYINKA??™S MYTH, TRAGEDY AND THE AFRICAN WORLD.
EMMANUEL TOLULOPE FAGBURE
MATRIC NUMBER: 121232
?© JUNE 2010.
Soyinka??™s Myth, literature and the African world emerges as an intricate web of five essays of thoughts and opinions of one culture in response to another. In this review an attempt shall be made to look into the established metaphysical interconnectedness of history, ritual and drama and to assert the creative insight that permeates African world. In this discourse, lengthy discussions capable of distorting reason and confusing facts of discussion shall be deliberately avoided in favour of a brief and concise summary of views as discussed by the author.
The text is in a way a daring projection of a culture whose reference points are taken from within culture itself. Further study reveals the indepth of Soyinka??™s thoughts on each posited subject. Morality and aesthetics in the ritual archetype uses Yoruba deities such as Ogun, Sango, Orisa-Nla and Esu to illustrate cosmic birth of the tragic in African experience, their profound parallel with the Greek gods and their Universal relevance. The area of difference is in pin pointed on grounds of profanity, injustice and wantonness of the Olympian gods in contrast with the ethics of the gods in Yoruba cosmogonic circles. The essence of tragedy to the Greeks according to Soyinka is embedded in Oedipus image. In the same breath he draws the lines between the Delphic oracle and the Yoruba divinatory chains showing not only how the modalities of each govern the norms of the professed society but also how they help to cement the cosmogonic gulf between man and the deities.
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Drawing from The story of Oxala and that of Obotunde Ijimere the pseudonym of Ulli Beier titled The Imprisonment of Obatala, Soyinka analyses the points of departure from the Yoruba source in the former??™s approach to the pure stoic essence of Obatala and his many sufferings. The works of Zeljian receives a dissecting interpretation. n the comparative study of the play The story of Oxala the name of the god protagonist which is said to be a corruption name Orisa nla the creator of human forms in Yoruba pantheon, its dramatic principle is derided as an embodiment of Judeo ??“ Christian Passion Play. He says the Zeljan??™s kingdom of Sango is very much an Olympian setting. It is said to be far removed from African ethical order and balances. This pseudo-dramatistic inclusiveness is said to weaken the cohesive phenomena in the tragic drama. Soyinka posits that the coming into being of the gods and how its aesthetic convention is seen, read and understood in African ritual dramatic styles. Ogun in his reference to the process of the god in Yoruba cosmogonic structure is asserted by the notable writer as he that single-handedly bridged the gulf, launched a passage for and between the primordial gods and man. Significantly, the spiritual or rather metaphysical abyss dared by the patron of the creative artists is called Chthonic Realm; the world of the ancestors, the unborn and the dead in Soyinka??™s coinage. The roles of the actor protagonist are termed to be the re-enactment of Ogun??™s experience. Ogun??™s foray into and emergence from the daemonic Elysium in Soyinka??™s postulation is the depth of Yoruba??™s socio-cultural aesthetics and ritual drama. Where the writer fails to delineate is the difference between ritual festival drama and modern theoretical performances.
Drama and the African world view revolve on the prerequisites of African and European drama and tragedy most specifically. In his deceptive analytical discourse, Soyinka affirms that relatedness of drama, ritual theatre and the African concept of the tragic and the commercial manipulation is embedded in its European counterpart. The divergence of modern European form of heater from its true origin is considered by Soyinka to be a result of many concerted terminologies postulated by its adherents. He defines the stage as a medium of transition especially for the suffering protagonist. As a reference point on how cultural differences and world view can impede the acceptance of the tragedic, he relates J. P. Clark??™s Song of a goat as an obvious difficulty in giving a unified definition to what truly characterize tragedy in the universal sense of the word.
Ideology and the social vision (1); The religious factor probes the pervading orthodoxy in some contemporary African writing. How the use of past or present reality cannot only be a medium of transformation but also help to break free of such incubi in its projection of a future society. The illuminating discourse in this chapter is adequately exemplified in his study of William Conton??™s novel The African Rhythm of violence, Cheikh Hamidou Kane??™s L??™Adventure Ambigue (Ambiguous Adventure) and Daniachew Worku??™s The thirteenth sun. This same robustness of thought characterizes his logical study of the delimitations of the sacred in Achebe??™s Arrow of God. He simply brings out the intrinsic values in the work and his submissions on the texts are quite appealing.
Perhaps it is noteworthy to state here that Soyinka in the fourth chapter titled Ideology and the social vision (2): The secular ideal provides the successive literary paradigm most important to the understanding of self ??“ representation, cultural retrieval of pre-colonial African projection and subtle resistance to the proliferating western and Arab signature in African literary works. Soyinka??™s strong lash on the Negritudinists is extremely caustic and violent. His reason for bearing down on Negritude and its proponents can be said to be that the concept of the ideology is unfounded and intellectually truncating and in his words ???propaganda for separatism???. This is therefore a pointer to the fact that Soyinka is a non-conformist to pan-ethnic traditions.
The fourth stage: Through the mysteries of Ogun to the origin of Yoruba tragedy) the essays concluding part provides a critical look at Yoruba tragedy through a consideration of myth, especially the god Ogun. The writer centrally discusses the most theoretical debates on the existence of tragedy and creative spirits in the African world as illustrated in the characters of Ogun. Obatala and Sango; the primordial gods of Yoruba beliefs. Apollo??™s attributes are related to the captivating aesthetics which constitute the creative nuance of Obatala while the frenzy of Ogun in relation to Nietzsche??™s Phrygian deity- Dionysos the ancient Greek god wine and fertility is posited by Soyinka to be highly synonymous. Obatala??™s stunning illumination commands not only aesthetic statements but also spiritual rebirth that possesses affinity with peaceful coexistence cutting across all tribes and cultures.
Furthermore, the cyclic nature of reality is clearly and firmly exposited on as against the western perceptions of a linear life nature. It is quite amusing to note that Soyinka presents the origin of Yoruba tragedy or tragic ant in the plunge of Ogun into the world of mysteries. His eventual emergence that leads into dramatic enactment and imitation by the protagonist before the audience members is postulated to be the phase pertinent to tragic drama,
After a carefull reading of the text, it is inevitable that one would not fail to recognize Soyinka??™s literary preoccupation and where he stands: the book in a graphic description is a quest for or an ideal theory on the Universal grounds of both the cosmic and the tragic, either in European representation or in African symbolic presentation. Also it is a firm assertion of the existence of creative awareness of the black African as displayed in Ogun??™s creative energies.