The Interpreters: Ritual, Violence, and Social Regeneration in the Writing of Wole Soyinka

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A concern for social regeneration stands as the factor that animates Soyinka�s life-long involvement in social and political activism, leading to hid incarceration for two years during the civil war, and his having to flee into exile during the period of Sani Abacha�s dictatorship. Soyinka expresses this same concern for social regeneration in his writings, using difference metaphors. The focus of this work lies in the exploration of the articulations of social regeneration in the works of Wole Soyinka. The first past focuses on the dramatic works, and the argument of the author is that the metaphor adopted by Africa�s foremost playwright in articulating his vision of social regeneration is that of ritual. Attention shifts in part two to Soyinka�s two novels; and here, Bello goes to the roots of Yoruba metaphysics to fetch a metaphor which describes a creature with contradictory personality; which at once is committed to the regeneration of the social order while at the same time retaining a vindictive, vengeful nature.

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Published 29 December 2014
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EAN13 9789789182732
Language English
Document size 11 MB

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Hakeem Bello
Published by Kraft Books Limited 6A Polytechnic Road, Sango, Ibadan Box 22084, University of Ibadan Post Office, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria +234803 348 2474, +234805 129 1191 E-mail: kraftbooks@yahoo.com Website: www.kraftbookslimited.com
© Hakeem Bello 2014
First published 2014
ISBN 978–978–918–195–7 (Paperback)  978–978–918–196–4 (Hardback)
All Rights Reserved
First printing, July 2014
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The core of this work comes from my undergraduate long essay at the University of Ilorin and the dissertation I submitted to the University of Ibadan in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a Masters degree in the 1989/90 session. Of course, a sustained interest in literature and my fascination with the intriguing life and works of the great writer and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka meant keeping in touch with that subject even as I made forays into journalism, rising to become the Editor of the now in limbo DAILY TIMES; and the public service by virtue of the kind appointments offered me first as Senior Special Assistant on Media and later Special Adviser on Media by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN). However, I am heavily indebted to Almighty God and so many people without whose input this book might probably not have been published. First, I would like to thank Wumi Raji who served as my editorial consultant on this project. Wumi readily agreed to read through the manuscript that I produced out of the two projects and did not hesitate to declare it “publishable” after having gone through it. He also assisted in editing and proof-reading the work. I am really grateful to this reliable friend who also happened to be my senior at the University of Ilorin. I must thank my boss, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) whose intellectual disposition cannot but infect anyone working with him. For their fraternal cooperation, I also thank my colleagues in the Lagos State Government’s information management team, Mr Lateef Ibirogba and Mr. Lateef Raji. Most grateful I am to my parents, Mr Moshood Bello and Mrs Sadiat Bello both of blessed memory for their valiant efforts as parents. I thank my brother and sisters led by Mrs Bolanle Tunji. My Uncles – Alhaji Taoheed Bello paid my way through

school and Alhaji Tajudeen Bello gave me guardianship in Lagos from a rather tender age. I owe a debt of gratitude to my guardians in Ilorin, Dr and Mrs Lateef Oladimeji. For the book itself, I am deeply grateful to my supervisors, Dr Bayo Ogunjimi, an unrelenting task master now of blessed memory for the B.A Project and Professor Albert Olu Ashaolu whose probing eyes and questions meant you should do more. I am equally grateful to my lecturers at both University of Ilorin and University of Ibadan, especially Professor Olu Obafemi. I was particularly inspired and remain so till date by my Stylistics lecturer later at the University of Ibadan, Professor Niyi Osundare (Aigboku Oko). As External Examiner to the Department of Modern European Languages, in the University of Ilorin, he found a particular long essay quite interesting and set it aside to create time to read it over and over, to, as he was to tell me much later, satisfy himself that it was not the product of that ill bedeviling the academic environment, plagiarism. Having thus satisfied himself that it was not plagiarised, he went ahead to score the work an “A”. Finally, to my wife Olubunmi, and children, Barakah, Kareemah, Mubarak and Raheemah, I say thank you to you all for being ever there for Daddy. God bless.
Hakeem Bello

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I developed interest in the works of Wole Soyinka quite early. As an undergraduate student at the University of Ilorin between 1984 and 1988, I set time aside for his writings, perusing his plays, novels, poetry, essays, diaries and biographical writings. I felt seriously challenged by most of what I read. For my final year project then, and as part of further tackling the challenges, I decided to study the two novels that he has published till date in an essay titled “Rituals,Violence and Creativity in the Novels of Wole Soyinka.” My examiners considered the work outstanding as an undergraduate project and this encouraged me even more in my determination to explore Soyinka further. I therefore decided to return to the subject while pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Ibadan from 1989 through 1991. This time, I elected to study Soyinka’s dramatic works for the Masters dissertation I submitted to the University at the end of the programme. The ensuing work was titled “Ritual as Form in Wole Soyinka’s Dramaturgy.” I had a plan to continue my research on the works of the only Nobel laureate Nigeria has so far produced but my incursion into journalism soon after completing the Masters degree diverted my attention. Since then, all my efforts to return to what should represent my area of primary interest have proved unsuccessful. Recently however, I decided to utilize my rare free moments to take down the two projects and take a fresh look at them. It was then that it re-occurred to me that I had a thread running through both of them. There and then, I made up my mind to create more time to articulate this properly and push it out to a wider readership. The Interpreters: Ritual, Violence and Social Regenerationis then a re-worked version jointly of my B.A project of 1988 and M.A dissertation of 1990. The uniting thread in the two works is located in the perspective of social regeneration which they explore in the writings of Wole Soyinka. Clearly, Soyinka’s

concern for a socially reconstructed Nigerian – nay African society – cannot be gainsaid. It stands as the factor that animates his life-long involvement in social and political activism, an involvement which led to his incarceration for two years during the civil war, and his having to flee into exile during the period of Sani Abacha’s dictatorship. Soyinka expresses this same concern for social regeneration in his writings, using different metaphors. The focus of this work lies in the exploration of the articulations of social regeneration specifically in the dramatic and novelistic writings of Wole Soyinka. “The Interpreters” representing the main title of the book has been adopted clearly from the title of Soyinka’s first novel and is employed here to refer to a number of characters in Soyinka’s different writings who stand as agents of social regeneration. They may suffer for their convictions or even willingly or unwillingly transform to scapegoats in the process of the rites of regeneration. What unites them however, lies in the fact of their being darers of transition, if only to paraphrase Soyinka, standing mid-way in the abyss, receiving visions of social transformation and translating same to their different communities. Eman inThe Strong Breed,Olunde inDeath and the King’s Horseman, Old ManMadmen and in Specialists, Daodu inKongi’s Harvest, Isola inCamwood on the Leaves, Sekoni inThe Interpreters and Demakin inSeason of Anomy, all represent examples of those who qualify to be described as “interpreters” in the context of this book. The Interpreters: Ritual, Violence and Social Regenerationis divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the dramatic works, and my argument here is that the metaphor adopted by Africa’s foremost playwright in articulating his vision of social regeneration is that of ritual. As Soyinka seems to argue in his plays, a society that has lost its moorings needs to undergo rites of expiation and purgation in order to regain direction. For this to be possible, there must emerge a protagonist hero who will possess sufficient qualities of hubris as to make him lead in an act of confrontation with the abyss of transition. The underlying principle is carefully laid out in chapter one and applied in a