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Voix éthniques, ethnic voices. Volume 1

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Jean-Paul Regis

Towards a Linguistic Syncretism? The Question of Language in A Dance of the Forests by Wole Soytnka

Liliane Louvel

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  • 1 See Chantal Zabus, "The Logos-Eaters: The Igbo Ethno-Text," Littérature africaine comparée: Mélang (...)

1Reading A Dance of the Forests, one feels the deep frustration of the potential theatre-goer deprived of the aural effects he is entitled to expect. One experiences something akin to the impression of watching a silent movie and has to make the effort either to recompose the sounds of the language in one's head or to enunciate the text in one's silent room. A drama is written to be performed, its idiom to be uttered.1 The problem is all the more acute with a playwright such as Wole Soyinka who writes in English but strives to retain the flavour of Yoruba speech as much as possible. The question then arises: what is the specificity of this medium? To what criteria did Wole Soyinka submit it? What kind of checking led him to choose the particular mixed language he finally contrived?

  • 2 James Gibbs, "Grafting is an Ancient Art, The Relationship of African and European Elements in the (...)

2This paper will be limited to a study of some aspects of language in A Dance of the Forests. I do not pretend to comprehend all the different sides of the language used by Soyinka in this particular drama but to focus on some privileged issues such as the choice of the English vehicle, the borrowings from Yoruba and European cultures, and the function of this new combination, itself an instance of what a critic coined as "grafting"2

  • 3 See Ngugi Wa Thuiong'o's article, "Africa from Inside the Linguistic Jail," Guardian, Oct. 21, 198 (...)

3The problem of language is at the root of all literary production emanating from most of the former colonized countries. Bilinguilism, when it is not trilinguilism such as in South Africa for instance, is the rule. Therefore this is a choice the writer is confronted with.3 Not writing in a state of void, he often finds himself facing a political dilemma. If he adopts the former colonizer's language he is considered a traitor to his country, losing his ethnic identity and ethnicity. On the other hand, adopting a traditional language may be considered as taking a bold separatist stand. At the same time it may signify literary death.

4It is not one of the lesser paradoxes of A Dance of the Forests, that this was a play written for the 1960 celebration of Independence and that it should have been written in English. In Nigeria, there is such a multiplicity of languages that the question immediately arises: which language is the writer going to write in? Who is he going to write for? Who will read him? The atomization of languages compels the artist who aims at being widely read, to choose a common language. This language may also serve as a unifying link between the different ethnies. The choice of English as the writing idiom by such authors as D. D. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka both ensures that the Nigerian writer will be read all over his country and provides him with an international audience. He can export his production when he is not even first published in England.

5A writer like Wole Soyinka, being brought up in Nigeria, educated at the university of Ibadan and then at Leeds University under the guidance of Wilson Knight, partakes of the two cultures and then bridges the gap between a standard-English written production and Yoruba oral tradition. I will attempt to trace in the text of A Dance of the Forests, some of the borrowings from Yoruba speech intricately woven into the linguistic fabric of the play written in English.

  • 4 D. D. Fagunwa, The Forest of a Thousand Daemons, London: Nelson, 1968.
  • 5 Abido Irele, "Tradition and the Yoruba Writer: D. D. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola and Wole Soyinka," Crit (...)

6Starting such a study, it is relevant to remember that Wole Soyinka has always professed his deep attachment to Yoruba tradition. His translation into English of Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale, The Forest of a Thousand Daemons by Fagunwa,4 the first translation ever, shows his profound debt to Yoruba cultural tradition. He praised "Fagunwa's sense of drama and his use of language."5 Amos Tutuola is another of Soyinka's admirations and Irele binds the three of them in declaring Wole Soyinka "the spiritual heir of Fagunwa and spiritual brother of Tutuola" thus linking them in a literary lineage. Indeed this goes deeper than a mere facile analogy as deep structures can be traced in the works of the three writers.

7In a Dance of the Forests, the forest acting as a symbolic setting recalls Fagunwa's Forest of a Thousand Daemons, and the tragic Half-Child may be a tribute to Tutuola's Palm Wine Drunkard although the forest and the Half-Child or the abiku, both belong to the Yoruba tradition.

  • 6 Abido Irele, op. cit., p. 60.
  • 7 Wole Soyinka, A Dance of the Forests, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1963), 1988.
  • 8 See for instance, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer and more particularly her short story, (...)

8There is a linguistic link between the writers as well. Fagunwa and Tutuola were often despised as being uneducated writers writing "bad English" or even "Pidgin English" This is one of the reasons which won them over Soyinka's admiration.6 He hailed them as original writers and truly innovative language users, coining new expressions, achieving the synthesis between the two cultures he is himself striving to attain. Although "Pidgin" does not occur in A Dance of the Forests, let it be noted that it does arise in Brother Jero and in The Road. In A Dance of the Forests, Soyinka chooses to model some of his characters' lines on the Yoruba pattern of speech and rhythm. Such lines as, Madame Tortoise: "People like you beg to be shaven clean on the skull"7 (p. 23), or Obaneji: "You've been begging for a stone to hit you on the head"(p. 22), or Rola: "You are merely the dust that came off a moth's wing" (p. 24), or The Old Man: "No sensible man burns the house to cook a little yam"(p. 30) either refer to the cultural habits in common use in Nigeria, i. e., the ritual shaving of the skull, the cooking of yams or, through their visual quality, the stone, the dust, the mole's wing, these lines refer to the concrete world of objects and animals, characteristic of sayings as will be developed further on. Mata Kharibu's declaration: "I will have no moral termites a thousand miles within my domain, Mata Kharibu is not the idle eye that watches contemptible insects eat away the strength of his kingdom"(p. 58), although understandable in most countries testifies to one of Africa's overwhelming metaphors and fears. Insects seem to represent a threat to man's life and kingdoms. The silent work of tiny mandibles pervades literary creation all over the African continent.8 This declaration of Mata Kharibu achieves another function in the play, it works as an analeptic clue foreshadowing the future coming of the Ants during the final dance and their outraged claims as uninvited guests.

  • 9 In a conference he gave at Tours University in March 1990, Wole Soyinka gave the following keys to (...)

9Another example of Soyinka's use of Yoruba is his choice of names. There is only one instance of a truly common noun in Yoruba being used in the play and that is "Baba" for Old Man. Yet naming people or things, discloses Soyinka's mastery of the nuances of Yoruba. Some of his characters have no identity proper. They are named after their age, The Old Man, The Half-Child or according to their social status, The Town Councillor being the Old Man as well, is defined by two parameters. The Dead Man and Dead Woman are also referred to as The Captain and his wife when they appear at the court of Mata Kharibu, then as the warrior. It is only in Forest Head's address that the Dead Man is given his name: Murieru (p. 70). The Dirge-Man, the Soothsayer, the Court Poet, the Historian only exist in relation to their trade. When they belong to the present world of the living they are granted a name: Demoke, Adenebi, Agboreko.9 Giving different names to the same characters when they appear at different historical times underlines the theme of the relentless repetition of the same pathetic patterns.

  • 10 Maria K. Mootry gives another interpretation of the choice of the Tortoise as the emblematic name (...)
  • 11 Christiane Fioupou, "Dramatic Elements in A Dance of the Forests," Commonwealth, Special issue, NS (...)
  • 12 Eldred Jones, "Wole Soyinka: Critical Approaches," Wright Edgar ed., The Critical Evaluation of Af (...)

10A moral or a physical trait may serve to differentiate the characters. Thus Madame Tortoise is named after the animal acknowledged by Nigerians as a trickster.10 Aroni,"the lame one," is gifted with a nickname which points to his ambiguous status. Constantly straddling the world of the forest and the world of the living his legs are never the11 same. According to Eldred Jones, in Yoruba tradition, "the left foot is chosen for its significance in folk augury"12 As for Agboreko, he is "the Elder of the Sealed Lips" provided the diviner is constantly babbling away, this designation imposed on him by his sacred function, turns out to be highly ironical. The sealing and unsealing of lips as uttering or keeping a secret is taken up again later on in the play when Murete consents "to unseal his lips," thereby making a revelation (p. 37).

  • 13 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

11But Soyinka's use of Yoruba is neither a servile imitation nor a mere transposition into English. In particular, he reinterprets the Yoruba pantheon and at times either uses actual Orisa's names or contrives original ones.13 Thus Ogun, the orisa of war, destructiveness and creativity, Soyinka's own favourite deity, protects Demoke the carver. Osumare, the rainbow-god, Yemoja, the deity of fecundity and feminine virtues are referred to. The case of Eshuoro is a telltale one as Soyinka describes him as "the wayward flesh of Oro" There is no such orisa as Eshuoro. The playwright simply makes up a compound name based on Eshu, the trickster-god, and Oro the god of bestiality and terror, fusing the twin notions of violence and destructiveness. As to Forest Head, the ruling king of gods, he is actually a total fantasy created by Soyinka. He places him at the head of his Yoruba pantheon and this potent figure plays the role of Master of Ceremonies and Supreme Judge.

12A tribute to the power of the Africans to assimilate "modern" inventions and baptize them according to some of their characteristics can be found in the naming of "The Chimney of Ereko," this fatal lorry. A discussion arises when Obaneji, Forest Head's human disguise, calls it so. Adenebi proclaims "that is not its real name" and provides the Chimney's real one, the ironical "God My Saviour"(p. l6). This discussion draws the line between the official name with strong Christian undertones and the popular name by which "(human or vehicular) are generally known"(p. l6). This lorry is so called because it is a polluting nuisance. It will help drive away the dead undesirable guests and forest imps thanks to the smoke screen it produces. In fact, Adenebi hates the name "The Chimney" for it reminds him of another tragic lorry, "the incinerator," in which 70 people were trapped in fire because he, the corrupt official, had taken bribes to allow the lorry to transport 70 passengers instead of its 40 regular ones. Soyinka draws on an actual event which had occurred shortly before his writing of the play. Naming people and things acquires a symbolic dimension for a playwright such as Soyinka who endeavours to interpret his ethnic heritage and give it new strength in reshaping it. A good instance of this can be found in the use of traditional Yoruba idioms like Yoruba poetry of abuse and oriki or praise-chants, Odu poetry, sayings, invocation and incantations.

13An instance of Yoruba poetry of abuse may be found in Murete's angry address:

Human beings drink their mother's milk. Drink the milk of mothers other than their own. Drink goat's milk. Cow's milk. Pig's blood. So just because I am Murete of the trees is no reason why I shouldn't climb the palm tree and help myself. One of these days when I am drunk enough, (stops) Hm, there doesn't seem to be any sense in that. If I'm drunk, then I am not thirsty, so what would I be doing up the palm? (examines his nails with satisfaction. Straightens up his finery). But I'll do it just the same. If Aroni likes, he can ostracize me (p. 44).

14The broken rhythm and the repetition of "drink" and "milk" convey Murete's exalted violence and sense of outrage which is undermined by his sudden interruption and recognition of the stupidity of his declaration. Soyinka's irony can also be traced when the form of the oriki or praise-chant is used by Eshuoro to address praises to himself:

Demoke did you know? Mine is the tallest tree that grows
On land. Mine is the head that cows
The messengers of heaven. Did you not know?
Demoke, did you not know? Only the tree may eat itself,
Oro alone is the worm that strips himself
Denudes the forest in a night. Only I
May eat the leaves of the silk-cotton tree.
And let men cower and women run to hole.
My voice is thin, my voice is shrill, my voice
Is no child's lullaby to human ears (p. 48).

15And he goes on in this vein at greater length. Based on repetitions, "mine", "did you know?," "only my voice," this self-addressed praise achieves a weird incantatory potency. Powerful images emerge like "the worm that strips himself" calling to mind the gnomic idiom particular to proverbs.

16Many instances of sayings may be found in the play and their function deserves a special attention. Proverbs were uttered orally and based on familiar rhythms and mnemonic patterns. They were meant to be voiced and listened to, thus being passed on from mouth to ear and mouth again. Writing them down and in English operates a. kind of betrayal akin to the translation of poetry from one language into another. Chinua Achebe, another Nigerian writer of Igbo origin and not a Yoruba, makes lavish use of Igbo proverbs especially in his rural-based novels. Soyinka's use of existing proverbs, or his engineering of new ones on traditional patterns, testify to a deliberate attempt to integrate traditional vehicles of Yoruba wisdom. Many characters utter them. "Demoke: ... The reveller doesn't buy a cap before he's invited"(p. 4) or, "The squirrel who dances on/a broken branch, must watch whose jaws are open/Down below."(p. 27) Or "Murete: When the leaves tremble it is no concern of the roots"(p. 9) which he borrowed from Agboreko, a great one for sayings. Agboreko's "proverbs to bones and silence" provides a comic-aimed instance of the empty use of tradition. His relentless repetition of common sayings hints at the hollowness of the character, his total impotence and inability to think by himself. He is just an empty vessel conveying dead utterances, thereby proverbs lose their status as wise enunciations and repositories of African lore and turn out to be mere automatic responses. The fact that the diviner is often content with "proverbs to bones and silence" without even quoting the proverb announced demonstrates the total ineffectivenes of the keeper of traditional law and religion. Murete readily adopts his idiosyncrasies proving furthermore the decaying status of empty proverbs. Let us give one or two examples of Agboreko's "wisdom": "If a flea had a home of his own, he wouldn't be out on a dog's back, proverb to bones and silence"(p. 34) "Because it rained the day the egg was hatched the foolish chicken swore he was a fish. Proverb to bones and silence"(p. 35) One is free to imagine the effect produced on an audience by this unvarying punctuation of Agboreko's speech! Nevertheless the proverbs in A Dance of the Forests offer a sample of what active proverbs used to be like when fulfilling a true poetic and prophetic function. The code of reference is the African surrounding, the immediate world. Animals, everyday life, communal life, objects, the four elements are constantly referred to. "Agboreko: If the wind can get lost in the rainstorm it is useless to send him an umbrella"(p. 38)

  • 14 Alain Ricard, Nationalisme et littérature, étude de littérature comparée des oeuvres théâtrales de (...)

17This overall use of proverbs is matched with the re-composition and integration of Odu poetry, poems adapted to all circumstances of life. According to Alain Ricard,14 Soyinka effected a kind of condensation of diverse Odu poems in the following extract:

Agboreko: The eye that looks downward will certainly see the nose. The hand that dips to the bottom of the pot will eat the biggest snail. The sky grows no grass but if the earth called her barren, it will drink no more milk. The foot of the snake is not split in two like a man's or in hundreds like the centipede's, but if Agere could dance patiently like the snake, he will uncoil the chain that leads into the dead... (p. 38)

  • 15 Bakare Gbadamosi, Yoruba Poetry, Ibadan, 1959.

18Alain Ricard quotes Bakare Gbadamosi's book: Yoruba Poetry,15 in which he found echoes of Soyinka's own poetry. "The sky is immense but grows no grass. /This is what the oracle said to Obalala,"(p. 26) "The foot of the snake is not split in two/This is what the oracle said to Osa,"(p. 26) "The eye that looks down will certainly see/the nose, the father of secrets who sits down to examine them will surely see the inside and the outside"(p. 28)

  • 16 Ulli Beier, Introduction to Bakare Gbadamosi, op. cit., quoted in Ricard, op. cit., p. 118.

19The similarity between Soyinka's use of Odu poems in Agboreko's answers does credit to his skill in rendering in English the rhythm, the images and the humour contained in the original poems. Ricard remarks on the difficulty of the translation of these poems from Yoruba into English, Yoruba being a language based on alternate three tones combined in a thousand ways. Yet, Soyinka maintains the wise and puzzling aspect of the originals. Concrete imagery and humour are preserved. According to Ulli Beier, the different kinds of poetry depend on the group who recites them and on the oral technique rather than on the structure of the poems.16 Thus using his own medium, Soyinka attempts to adapt Yoruba gnomic style and instil Yoruba flavour in his own creation.

  • 17 Christiane Fioupou, op. cit., p. 5.

20Notwithstanding his strong taste for the rhetorical use and abuse of proverbs, Agboreko performing a ritual of incantation uses a form akin to Yoruba incantatory style operating a ritual close to Ifa divination. When he casts the kernels of the cola nut, Agboreko utters: "oracle to the living and silence" Offering bribes to Murete he proffers a debased kind of incantation which turns him into ridicule:"It is I, Agboreko, Murete, it is Agboreko that calls you. Ear that never shut, eye that never closes. Murete, Agboreko brings you the unhappiness of his children,"(p. 12) to which Murete answers: "Come back later. I have told you the forest is big and I pay no heed to the footsteps of the dead" then he goes on poking fun at Agboreko. The same will happen in the incantation scene destined to send the disappointing, unwanted guests away. Agboreko uses all the paraphernalia and trinkets required: a divination board, a bowl and kernels. The beaters are shouting, the flogger "sets out to clear a space with his long whip... The dancer follows almost at once, followed by his acolyte (a very intense girl). She sprinkles the cleared space after the flogger."(pp. 38-39) The audience is right in the midst of a ritual of exorcism. But all this antiquated apparatus is of no avail. The town dwellers are using a more modern means of driving the spirits away under the guise of "the Chimney of Ereko" Then Agboreko exclaims: "A-a-ah baba, will you never believe that you cannot get rid of ancestors with the little toys of children..."(p. 41), both expressing his dismay at realizing that his power of prophesying has been checked and that his "traditional power might be crumbling away"17

21Another instance of the incantatory power of some of the characters in A Dance of the Forests, is perceptible when the Crier emphatically addresses "all such as dwell in these forests" and after a bombastic tirade calls up Forest Head to "unveil, unveil/The phantasmagoria of protagonists from the dead"(p. 50). Thus he paves the way for the pageant scene at Mata Kharibu's Court. This long speech of his achieves a dramatic function and is echoed and re-inforced by the Warrior who, from within the pageant, prophesizes the future generations' cannibalism. This is tragically duplicated by Soyinka's own predicting of the coming horrors of the Nigerian Civil War which was to break out shortly after the writing and the performing of the play. "Warrior: Unborn generations will be cannibals most worshipful physician. Unborn generations will as we have done, eat up one another"(p. 55) This prevailing theme of A Dance of the Forests, impressively voiced by the doomed warrior finds another echo in the more enigmatic incantation proffered by Spirit of the Rivers at the Gathering of the Tribes:

From Limpopo to the Nile coils but one snake
On mudbanks, and sandy bed
I who mock the deserts, shed a tear
Of pity to form palm-ringed oases
Stain my bowels red!(p. 75)

22This time the theme of blood-thirstiness and the recurring cruelty of man is voiced by a spirit using topographical names proper to Africa, its fauna and some typical features of the landscape: "mudbanks," "sandy bed," "the desert," "the palm-ringed oases," used to anchor the prophecy into the continent, and sink a few pegs into the real world.

23Indeed it is in the actual masque enacted at The Gathering of the Tribes that the idiom of the Egungun, yearly celebration of the Ancestors, and tradition will be more evident. The humans are possessed by the gods. The spirits intone incantatory refrains exposing man's destruction of his environment (pp. 74-75). Spirit of the Palms' repetition of "white skeins wove me" and the Half Child's pressing leitmotiv "Branded womb, branded womb" add up to the recurring, obssessive rhythm and overall impression of witnessing a powerful ritual enacted in front of the audience. This all culminates in the arrival of The Ants and their rebellion voiced by the Ant Leader:

We take our colour from the fertile loam
Our numbers from the hair-roots of the earth
And terror blinds them. They know
We are the children of the earth (p. 77)

24This upheaval of the down-trodden masses is expressed in Ant Leader's next answer to Forest Head, "Have you a grievance?": "None Father, except great clods of earth/Pressed on our feet"(p. 77). The ants have always been oppressed and rejected from the pageants of history. Ant Leader uses both concrete images related to the fate of his people, and at times a gnomic style not always devoid of the obscurity of mysteries cryptically revealed. Making lavish use of similes he intones: "Freedom we have/Like the hunter on a precipice/And the horns of a rhinoceros/Nuzzling his buttocks"(p. 77). So doing, Soyinka endows them with the enigmatic power of the Soothsayer and they achieve credibility in the eyes of Forest Head who pursues his interrogation, building up to a climax replete with the violence of long-repressed frustration:

Ant leader: We are the ones remembered
When nations build...
Another:... with tombstones (p. 78)...
Another: Down the axis of the world, from
The whirlwind to the frozen drifts,
We are the ever legion of the world,
Smitten, for-'the good to come'(p. 78)

25Thus the allusion to Marx's "the good to come" and the rebellion of Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth," are allegorically reconsidered and reembodied by a theatrical allegorical figure voicing it in a visual style drawing on the African backcloth.

26Therefore, the presence of Yoruba or Yoruba-inspired segments in the shaping of Soyinka's A Dance of the Forests, can be traced in a number of ways. It is brilliantly blended with the English language which Soyinka perfectly commands. Conversely, European echoes can be traced in the play. An instance of this point may be found in the satirical contriving of Adenebi's over emphatic and pompous style he uses when evoking a mythical past which only existed in the minds of builders of colonies and profit-oriented dictators. Then his addresses turn out to be hollow: "Find the scattered sons of our proud ancestors. The builders of empires. The descendants of our great nobility. Find them. Bring them here... Warriors. Sages. Conquerors. Builders. Philosophers. Mystics..." (p. 32) which he amplifies a few lines further down: "Mali. Songhai. Perhaps a descendant of the great Lisabi. Zimbabwe. May be legendary Prester John himself... I was thinking of heroes like they"(p. 33). This enumeration turns out to be a sequel of clichés as garish as popular chromo-vignettes. Rola remarks: "We got lost in the maze of purple and gold"(p. 8). Alain Ricard sees in this pompous style an analogy with British pageants: "white horses, purple robes" remind him of the Queen's pomp. This chimerical dream of glory and fame is satirically derided when confronted with reality under the guise of the battered Dead Man and Dead Woman sent by the gods in answer to the humans' request.

  • 18 Abido Irele, op. cit., p. 68.
  • 19 Biodun Jeyifo, interview published in the introduction to Soyinka's Six Plays, London: Methuen, 19 (...)

27The parallels with and echoes of Greek mythology, i. e., the story of Helen of Troy directly referred to at the court of Mata Kharibu (pp. 54-57), the references to Shakespeare's Hamlet, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, the similarities between Demoke's role and name calling to mind the character of Demokos in Giraudoux's Tigers at the Gates (La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu)18 are instances of Soyinka's power to integrate European cultural heritage within the Yoruba ritual drama.19 His own explicit reference to the "danse macabre" when discussing the final masquerade exemplifies the intertextual quality of A Dance of the Forests.

  • 20 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Interpretation..., op. cit., p. XII.

28Soyinka seems to have reconciled cultures in contriving a Yoruba opera in the English language. To end this study let us consider an interesting example of Soyinka's gift at effecting syntheses of both languages given by Alain Ricard when he quotes the following sentence of Ogun: "I killed/the proud one who would not bow araba's head/When the gifted hands of Demoke, son and a son/To carvers would pass his spirit into wood/Would master wood with iron, fibre with fire"(pp. 28-29). According to the critic, the first half of Ogun's speech recalls the Yoruba rhythm of speech, whereas the rhetorical double "fibre with fire" and the alliteration is typical of English. In a single sentence both media are being blended into an original form. Can we then assert, with Gibbs, that "Grafting is an Ancient Art," and that so doing Soyinka's Yoruba scion grafted onto the European tree enables him to attain what was his avowed purpose: universality and the acknowledgement of a "common humanity?"20

  • 21 For the use of traditional content, see Oyin Ogumba, "The Traditional Content of the Plays of Wole (...)

29When language and tradition find echoes in distant countries the artist can realize a kind of linguistic or cultural syncretism21 mirroring the religious syncretism which other Yorubas in other times elaborated across the ocean, in Brazil. The function of linguistic syncretism is to attain an international dimension as well as provide the unity of the Nigerian people and find a true Nigerian expression both comprehensible outside and inside the country, in towns as well as in cities. This particular aim of Soyinka's fulfills a political function one of the playwright's overriding preoccupations. So doing, he allies his artistic purpose with his political commitment. Isn't he today responsible for the state of the roads in Nigeria? Knowing Soyinka's sense of humour this must satisfy the playwright whose The Road, is one of his most famous plays. The rest of his career proves that he has never departed from this line and that nationalism in a positive sense, rested at the centre of his evolution. He, likewise remained true to his favourite god, Ogun, the orisa of artists, the destroyer and creator, for Soyinka effected a deconstruction and a reconstruction of Yoruba and English melting them into a unique personal medium.

Notes

1 See Chantal Zabus, "The Logos-Eaters: The Igbo Ethno-Text," Littérature africaine comparée: Mélanges Albert Gérard, Festschrift, Bayreuth, 1990.

2 James Gibbs, "Grafting is an Ancient Art, The Relationship of African and European Elements in the Early Plays of Wole Soyinka," World Literature Written in English, Summer 1984, 24 (1), pp. 87-89.

3 See Ngugi Wa Thuiong'o's article, "Africa from Inside the Linguistic Jail," Guardian, Oct. 21, 1989.

4 D. D. Fagunwa, The Forest of a Thousand Daemons, London: Nelson, 1968.

5 Abido Irele, "Tradition and the Yoruba Writer: D. D. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola and Wole Soyinka," Critical Perspectives on Wole Soyinka, Gibbs ed., Washington: Three Continents Press, 1980, pp. 59-66.

6 Abido Irele, op. cit., p. 60.

7 Wole Soyinka, A Dance of the Forests, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1963), 1988.

8 See for instance, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer and more particularly her short story, "The Termitary," A soldier's Embrace, Harmondsworth, Mddx.: Penguin (1975), 1980, and her novel July's People, London: Jonathan Cape, 1981.

9 In a conference he gave at Tours University in March 1990, Wole Soyinka gave the following keys to the names of his creatures: Ade means crown, thus Adenebi means "crown as guilt." Demoke is short for Ademoke, it means "the crown seizes the heights." Mata Kharibu is a semi Moslem name referring to the Djihadie Empire. Rola's name can be translated as "to see splendour," Murete is adapted of "certain forest beings." Eshuoro refers to the cult of terror. He is the executive arm whose brutality emphasizes the secular aspect of deities. Agboreko's name means "the interpreter" as in Delphi.

10 Maria K. Mootry gives another interpretation of the choice of the Tortoise as the emblematic name for the notorious courtesan. The shape, lines and convolutions of the animal's shell might represent female organs. The tortoise then might stand for the female symbolic counterpart of the snake suggesting the phallus. Maria Mootry, "Soyinka and Yoruba Mythology," Ba Shiru, 1976, 7, pp. 23-32.

11 Christiane Fioupou, "Dramatic Elements in A Dance of the Forests," Commonwealth, Special issue, NSP1, 1989, pp. 58-67.

12 Eldred Jones, "Wole Soyinka: Critical Approaches," Wright Edgar ed., The Critical Evaluation of African Literature, pp. 51-72.

13 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

14 Alain Ricard, Nationalisme et littérature, étude de littérature comparée des oeuvres théâtrales de Leroi Jones et Wole Soyinka, Thèse de Troisième cycle, Bordeaux, 1970.

15 Bakare Gbadamosi, Yoruba Poetry, Ibadan, 1959.

16 Ulli Beier, Introduction to Bakare Gbadamosi, op. cit., quoted in Ricard, op. cit., p. 118.

17 Christiane Fioupou, op. cit., p. 5.

18 Abido Irele, op. cit., p. 68.

19 Biodun Jeyifo, interview published in the introduction to Soyinka's Six Plays, London: Methuen, 1984, p. XIII.

20 Wole Soyinka, Myth, Interpretation..., op. cit., p. XII.

21 For the use of traditional content, see Oyin Ogumba, "The Traditional Content of the Plays of Wole Soyinka," African Literature Today, n° 4.

Auteur

Université de Poitiers

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1992

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