Winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, this Nigerian poet, playwright, and novelist writes of the rich cultural traditions as well as the hopes and frustrations of black Africa. This two-volume collection of his plays includes A Dance of the Forests, The Swamp Dwellers, The StrongBreed, The Road, and The Bacchae of Euripides in the first volume, and The Lion and thWinner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, this Nigerian poet, playwright, and novelist writes of the rich cultural traditions as well as the hopes and frustrations of black Africa. This two-volume collection of his plays includes A Dance of the Forests, The Swamp Dwellers, The StrongBreed, The Road, and The Bacchae of Euripides in the first volume, and The Lion and the Jewel, Kongi's Harvest, The Trials of Brother Jero, Jero's Metamorphosis, and Madmen and Specialists in the second volume....
|Title||:||Collected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripides: 001 (Includes a Dance of ... Breed/the Road/the Bacchae of Euripides)|
|Number of Pages||:||320 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Collected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripides: 001 (Includes a Dance of ... Breed/the Road/the Bacchae of Euripides) Reviews
One of the first things I noticed about "A Dance in the Forest" is that it is not not very nationalistic, even though it was performed for the celebration of Nigerian independence in October 1960. If anything it seems like a warning to move forward rather than get stuck in a past mindset. There are also some pretty serious critiques of some of the changes due to modernization. Rola comments that "this whole family business sickens me," to which Obaneja responds, "it never used to be a problem" (9). From my experience in Ghana this summer I noticed that there is a serious tension between the traditional family (extended family, cousins, uncles, etc) and the nuclear family that has been introduced. Disputes over land and inheritance and the whole view of family life have been in flux due to Western influences. The passenger lorries, such as the "Incinerator" and "The Chimney of Ereko" (17) are also frequent sights in Ghana. A tro-tro is something between a bus and a taxi service that looks like a gutted out van. They are supposed to have a passenger limit, but I have seen people stacked on top of each other more than once. If you ever get the chance to ride in a tro-tro, also known as a lorry, you are in for a real treat. They all have names painted on the back for identification, but everyone knows that not all lorries are created equal. In our case, "Big Ben" was the one that could get you to the city the fastest and the safest, which is saying a lot.I also had the opportunity to read "The Road." I have a few questions about this play, and in general I think I had troubles understanding it compared to some of the other books in African Literature I have been exposed to. There is definitely something about this God of the road that they mention throughout the story. I saw something similar reading Nigerian author Ben Okri's the Famished Road, a great read if you are more interested in these subjects. The road seems to represent something more, something about life but also about death, and we see that in the ongoing discussing with Samson and Salubi, who life long friends who have worked together for years until Salubi has decided it is too risky and wants to open up a shop. The "mate," Sampson in this case, is the man who sits in the back of the tro-tro/lorry with the passengers who knocks on the top of the van to let the driver know when to stop and let them drop. They are a partnership, and you cannot drive without one.This Professor, an educated pretentious ex-preacher, hired to forge a drivers license for Samson and Salubi, is an enigma to me. For most of the play I spent the time loathing him, but at the end when he starts to speak the truth about the "Word," which seems to be more about death than life, that is when he is killed. I would love to hear more about this if anyone has any insights on him or any other themes in this collection of plays.In general I would say these are difficult reads, especially if you are unfamiliar with the context. I would prefer to read this in a classroom or where discussion was available.
Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian, was the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature; he was the first African, and so far the only Black African, to win the prize. Although he has written poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he is best known as a playwright. A Dance of the Forests  77 pagesThis was written for and first performed at the Celebration of Nigerian Independence, thus for a Nigerian rather than as with the earlier plays a British audience. While those were fairly straightforward, this one is very difficult and symbolic or allegorical, making use of elements of Yoruba religion and mythology. The situation is that a village is hosting a rare reunion of "all the tribes"; it has prevailed on the "Forest Father" to bring back some dead ancestors, but instead of the heroes they were expecting he has brought back a soldier who was killed for refusing to fight an unjust war and his pregnant wife (the other characters accuse him of "thought", so there is allegory working here also). The village council tries to drive them away, and they are welcomed by the supernatural Forest spirits.There are three human "witnesses" who participate, a wood carver, a courtesan, and a "council orator" (sort of a traditional equivalent of a lawyer?). The play is divided into two parts; the first part seems at times like a fairly random (and occasionally comic) dialogue among the "witnesses", and the second part with the actual welcoming ceremony is very clearly allegorical, with characters representing "the End that justifies the means", "the Greater Cause for which the present must sacrifice" and "Posterity" fighting over a "half-born" child (I think standing for the newly independent Nigeria, though I may be wrong.) There is much byplay involving Eshuora (a sort of Satan or tempter figure) and Ogun (both figures of Yoruba religion) which would make more sense to someone who knows the religion, although the general idea is apparent enough. I think that the play is commenting on the celebration for which it was written, and making points about the direction in which Nigeria was headed, but I can't go beyond that general idea.The Swamp Dwellers  34 pagesSoyinka's first play, this was probably written in 1958, first performed in London in 1959, and published in 1964. The entire play takes place in one room of a hut in a swamp over one day, so like many of his plays it observes the classical "unities". The play begins with an old man and his wife arguing; we learn that they have had two sons, who have gone to the city to seek their fortunes; one has just returned, but gone out again to see his farm, which has been destroyed by flood. They are waiting his return; in the meantime they are visited by a blind beggar and the local priest of the swamp deity, the Serpent. The play has a serious, almost poetic tone, and deals in a short compass with themes of rural vs. urban life, superstition and religion, and family. It is in the first volume of the collection.The Strong Breed  34 pagesAnother difficult play based on religious customs. I can't summarize this one without giving away information that is introduced piece by piece.The Road  86 pagesLiterally, this is a play about a passenger truck or "bus" driver who has given up driving after witnessing a fatal accident, his "tout" who wants him to go back to driving, and a possibly mad person called the Professor who gives them shelter. There are also several other characters with various connections to "the road". In the course of the play, we find out more information about the main characters pasts. It is clear that there is much symbolic meaning in the play, though as usual in Soyinka's plays it is not always obvious what the meaning is -- in some ways the play seems to resemble the "theater of the absurd". The Professor throughout talks about his quest to find the Word; he uses the term sometimes to refer to the Bible (he was expelled from the church in front of which the play takes place for reasons which are explained differently by different characters), sometimes to literal words, but usually in a sort of cabbalistic sense as a word of power over death. The other characters are ambiguous in the way they relate to him; they all think that he is crazy and yet they appeal to him for advice. The literal theme of driving and road safety is not simply an excuse for the symbolism; Soyinka himself was an activist for road safety in Nigeria after having many of his students killed in highway accidents. Also as usual in Soyinka, even the most obscure metaphysical or religious dialogues are mixed with political satire on the corruption of the country's institutions. As with the previous three plays, there is an ambiguous -- not to say bizarre -- ending alluding to religious ritual.The Bacchae of Euripides  75 pagesThis is not the Bacchae of Euripides; the two plays have nothing in common except the main characters and the general plot outline. It is actually a play about oppression, economic and psychological, and the use of joy as a way of fighting against it; the spirit of it reminded me of Ishmael Reed's novel Mumbo Jumbo. Dionysos here is very similar to Soyinka's version of Ogun, and in fact lines are reused from his poem Idanre.
A thoroughly confusing piece of work upon a initial reading. IIt is only when one delves into the play itself and does an in dept of the political and economical state of Nigeria at the time and Soyinka's position in it all does one begin to comprehend the genius the Wole Soyinka is, a prophetic writer if there ever was one!
An immediate offspring of post-structuralism, Post-Humanism deconstructs the basic premises of humanism without totally abandoning humanism. The goal of Post-Humanism is to demonstrate the major flaw of humanism: exceptionalism. Humanism stresses on the superiority and uniqueness of human being and cuts off man from the rest of the natural world. Such a mistake brings about a single notion of human identity that is a source of injustice, cruelty, oppression, irrational rituals and etc.In the Strong Breed, Wole Soyinka portrays a village (microcosm) of humanism. The fundamental view of humanity for the inhabitants of this village is that any stranger, outsider or non-conformist should be killed because such person either jeopardizes their assumption (like Eman), or reminds them its deficiencies (like Ifada). Anyone who cannot be included in this community is an animal, an insect –– in fact anything except a human being. As Sunma confessingly states "we shut out strangers … it is only I who have stood between you and much humiliation" (1276). In fact, they dehumanizes (marginalizes) their victims, depriving them the very essence of human nature, human will and volition to contain their own notion. Such a dogmatic view of humanism merely entails cruelty, hatred and contempt.On the other hand, it is exactly this attitude which is questioned by post-human hero of the play, Eman –– aiming at a truer definition of humanity. As Derrida asserts in his Animal, therefore I Am, "we are in a knot of species co-shaping one another in layers of reciprocating complexity." However, it is not to claim that human beings and animals or other things in the cosmos are equal. To put it more simply, being human is equal to embrace interrelationships between man and the natural world. And this is the defining feature of human being. Acceptance of humanism means the admittance of human separation from the natural world, and consequently the acceptance of being non-human. We as human beings are hybridized by different binary relationships such as human/animal, human/nature, human/world, human/morality, and human/barbarity. Yet humanism always privileges the human side at the expense of the other side as if it were enough to be qualified as being fully human. Post-Humanism, on the other hand, places us in the midst of the world by invalidating humanist superior stance. Post-Humanists realize that we need a less anthropocentric knowledge (even this anthropocentric view is imperfect due to its male-orientation) and more unbiased modesty. In other words, to achieve a truer picture of humanity we should be a "modest witness."Eman, our "modest witness", utterly demonstrates what is missing in the humanist world of the village. He embraces the deficiencies of our race and goes through this epiphany that to be a human –– or the strong breed –– something more than the ties of blood; ritual; community; or physical resemblance is needed. Humanity is not something stable and as a signifier it exists within the free play of other signifiers. For instance, it can be claimed that Sunma possesses a sort of human consciousness, but such consciousness does not suffice to make her a true human being. It is Eman, who as post-human being, fondles Ifada (a symbol of the complex relationship of different elements in the world) or the Girl (a symbol of the flawed system of humanism). He is both anthropomorphic and symbiotic –– the fact that humanism considers as a contamination of humanity. It is noteworthy to mention how Eman himself achieves such transcendence. What saved Eman was his relationship with Omae, whose "goodness [humanity] could [not] be found" among the villagers (1285). It was Eman's modest witnessing of Omae that gradually purified him, and it is exactly after this touch that Eman ironically understands "I am becoming a man" (1283). Such an insight, such an understanding of humanity results in Eman's abandoning the community of his birthplace to search for the secret knowledge of humanity, and it takes twelve years that he finds out that the peace (the secret of true humanity) can be seen in Omae, who sacrificed herself, waiting all these years for him. Their son is the true son of humanity. Their son is the torch that can guides him, and that is why he denies changing his path (as his father urges) because he is afraid of being got lost. Human being is a carrier whose burden is more than cognitive powers, consciousness, emotions, or rituals. Being human means these things plus having the knowledge of our position in the world, of our weaknesses, plus making sacrifices, plus having responsibility. It does not mean that human being is unfree, but he is unaware of the extent that his freedom is compromised. In the end, it should be mentioned that the play ends with a small optimism; that is, Eman's death may renew and purify their notion of humanity.
The standout here, for me, is "The Road." I found Soyinka's adaptation of Euripides, on the other hand, hard to follow. Some short plays round out the collection. How lovely it would be to see some of these challenging plays performed...
I only read the Swamp Dwellers.