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History, Religion, and the Dramaturgy of Victimization and Betrayal: Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Ngũgĩ wa Mirii's I Will Marry When I Want

Matatu - Journal for African Culture and Society 01/2013;

ABSTRACT Stage drama, with its added dimension of public performance, bears directly on the socio-cultural and political realities of a given society. Through performance, most social ills have not only been articulated but also exposed with the aim of creating a safe, sane society. This essay engages the 'dramaturgical intent' in Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman ( 1975) and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Ngũgĩ wa Mirii's I Will Marry When I Want ( 1982) as plays that use stage drama and performance to critically appraise the colonial experience with regard to issues of language and religion. The essay contends that when colonial writings dwarf the cultural voice, they counteract self-assertion and cultural ideology in which (representatives of) the traduced oftentimes stand up to correct a misrepresentation that has occurred in their history. The essay further examines how the two scholars, Soyinka and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, address issues of exploitation, betrayal, and victimization from the self-reified Western societies and their African protégés in their plays. Both Soyinka and Ngũgĩ, I argue, are more successful in using drama to articulate the 'revolutionary ideal'. In so doing, they participate in an ongoing reinvention of the full humanity of the slighted in the “corporonial” (Ngũgĩ, Wizard of the Crow) era.

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