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CONCEPT AND ESSENCE OF THE SUPERNATURAL IN RELATION TO AFRICAN WORLDVEW, A STUDY OF CLARK’S OZIDI AND SOYINKA’S DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN

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CHAPTER ONE

 

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For generations, African beliefs and practices have been located in the intersection between the natural world and the supernatural world.  Despite the impacts of colonialism and even in the contemporary test of modernization, the complex interplay between these worlds have not been reduced.  The interaction between religion and indeed traditional beliefs, as a facet of culture has been long a subject matter in anthropology.  This relationship brings these aspects of African beliefs as in witchcraft, healing, re-incarnation, superhuman or extra-ordinary prowess among others, together in such a complex manner.

This therefore has made it difficult to attempt to understand the dynamics of African belief in the supernatural.  Evidently, the existing ethnographic instances of African communities in different parts of the continent have a somewhat near, if not a total semblance.

In order to comprehend the interaction between these numerous cultural concepts, it is necessary to understand the general   cosmological view of the African as evidenced in the  world.  In these stage art world, just like anyone else on the continent, it is believed that humans have the ability to control both the natural and supernatural worlds and thus become the centres around which natural and supernatural forces interact.  These interactions are evidenced in witchcraftcy, sorcery, talisman and others, as they move along symbolic interpretation given.

Among the Africans , for instance, witches are regarded as opponents to the natural order of harmonious community life.  As such, any unnatural misfortunes that befall a community raises suspicious of witchcraft.  The suspected witch is hunted out and may be killed by members of the community.  Similarly, a supernatural talisman who wiered enormous prowess could embark on a ruthless revenge mission in response to a grievous injury or harm caused to him.  Deeply rooted in the cultural expressions of African cosmology and understanding of the essence and appreciation of the concept of African supernatural belief as reflected in selected African plays is quite pertinent.  This can be done through a dissection of the literary works and reflection on the notable playwrights for such an appreciation.

 

1.1       Statement of the Problem

In this interacting natural and supernatural world, humans occupy a central role.  They are individuals around whom these two worlds interact and they have the ability to impose meaning through culture on these worlds.  The implication is that forces in both the natural and supernatural worlds are in themselves neutral.  To understand this interaction is imperative as some studies undertaken to believe this evolved from the angles of history or anthropology.  This is not enough as it failed to mirror the interplay of the forces of supernatural, to this end, the study of selected African plays give more insight into understanding the concept and essence of supernatural belief to African worldview as explained in this study.  Do the supernatural powers have any influence on the people of Afroca.  This essence has been a devastating pressure in the mind of the researcher.

1.2       Research Questions

To obtain a reliable outcome, the researcher is guided by a number of research questions:

  • What has been the general perception of African worldview?
  • Have the play production approaches made any effective contributions?
  • Has the contemporary African theatre Approach able to discern the concept of African cosmology?
  • Does Wole Soyinka in his Death and The King’s Horseman able to explain the essence of Yoruba worldview?
  • Can the contemporary African theatre artist sell African traditional theatre to the world at large?

1.3       Objectives of the Study

This study intends to achieve the following specific objectives:

  • General nature of African worldview would have been appreciated.
  • The existing techniques or approaches to theatre performance, would have been studied and analysed.
  • Play production approaches to the African worldview would have been identified.
  • The analyses of Ozidi and Death and the king’s Horseman as work of art would have been done.
  • The establishment of the relationship between Ozidi and Death and the King’s Horseman with African cosmology would have been firmly established.

1.4       Significance of the Study

This study is of significance in many ways: it will contribute to an understanding of cultural perspective of the supernatural, as rooted in the African belief system.  Also, this study will be of immense benefits to scholars in the field of Theatre Arts.

Moreover, this sturdy will spark up further studies and research into the African belief system which supernatural is a high point of such African belief systems.

This is indeed a research that keeps Africans connected to their root.

1.5       Delimitation/Scope of the Study

This study focuses on the concept and essence of supernatural in relation to African worldview in selected two African plays, Ozidi and Death and The King’s Horseman.  The analysis of the two plays are done to reflect how much influence the African cosmology and worldview has on African traditional and contemporary theatre.

1.6       Limitation of the Study

The researcher is constrained in a number of ways in the course of writing this dissertation.  Finance is a major factor militating against the objectives of the research of this nature.  Lack of funds has really reduced the impact of the research.   Another problem is time factor as the researcher has to divide its time between her office duty and the research.  Getting adequate materials is another factor that militated against the free flow of this research.

 

1.7       Research Methodology

The researcher made use of Literary and Artistic methodologies.  The Literary methodology is applicable to literary work as it focuses on written and printed literary and archival sources, especially books, journals, theses, reports, literary works such as plays, novel and poems.  In this regard, data would be collected from the theatrical literary works in focus, namely Ozidi by J.P. Clark and Death and The King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka.  This also involves an analyses of the two literary works mentioned above.  The other is the artistic methodology which involves artistic creation and interpretation according to Ukala:

The artistic methodology is for artistic creation and interpretation, writing for the stage, the screen or the radio or developing a model for doing so; composing, arranging and performing a piece of music acting; choreographing and dancing; designing and building set or costumes, designing and executing light or sound plots; directing for the stage, the screen or radio.(15)

To accomplish ones creativity effectively, the individuals artistic intuition, inspiration and imagination must be in place.  In this consideration, the Artistic methodology is used in an overview of supernaturalism evidenced in the selected drama text by Ozidi by J.P. Clark and Death and The King’s Horseman by Wole soynka.  The texts indeed are reflective of African cosmology which can only be understood through critical analysis even though an explanation of these occurrences could be easily understood.  The issue of discerning the meaning and the essence of Ozidi and Death and The King’s Horseman is complex and cumbersome as a result, with the use of Artistic methodology, the researcher is constrained to rely very strongly on her intuition, inspiration and imagination in a bid to fathom out some latent meaning of the two plays.  These three concepts are crucial to the use of Artistic methodology for the research.

 

1.8       Theoretical Framework

Theory can easily be described or explained as a series of ideas and general principles which seek to explain some aspects of a research being conducted.  It is a principle on which a particular work or research is anchored.  This research is therefore anchored on mythological theory.  One of the remarkable components of traditional African drama is the presence of supernatural beings, the presence of the ancestral spirits, deities, and all other forms of spirit essence, these are realized in myths, mysteries, wonders, and thaumaturgy. According to K.A. Amstrong; “myths are universal and timeless stories that reflects and shapes our lives, they explore our desires, our fears, our longings, and provide narratives that remind us what it means to be human”(1).  African mythology is akin to African ways of life, their belief system and their worldview.  On this view Azouzu stresses that;

When a metaphysics takes the form of belief and practices in relation to the ultimate reality, it is known as mythological model.  In this form the dynamic constitution of nature, whose self explanatory force is fundamental for scientific growth is replaced by belief as a dynamic force in the form a personal god, spirit or other agencies responsible for explanation of the realities of things.  The model concentrates primarily in grasping the nature of the being responsible for the existence of the world, it is comfortable with taking stock of the very attribute of the personal being, its relationship with men and nature… (7)

This theory stresses that right from the ages, human beings were distinguished by their ability to have ideas that go beyond their everyday experience.  Human beings agonize about their conditions and they fall easily into despair and upon this, stories are invented to enable them place their lives in a larger setting that reveal an underlying pattern and give them a sense that, against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life has meaning and value.  The theory also stipulates that human beings have imagination, a faculty that enables them think of a thing that is not immediately present.  The imagination is the fauclty that produces religion and mythology.

It is certain that mythology and science both extend the scope of human cognition.  Like science and technology, mythology is not about opting out of the world, but about enabling human beings live intensively within it.

In fact, myth concerned with something which we initially can not fathom.  Myth serves as a mirror as it looks into the heart of a great silence.  It is not a story told for its own sake.  It directs us to the right and acceptable way to behave.  Most obviously, mythology puts us in the correct spiritual and psychological position of current action in this world.  Mythology unfolds to us another plane that exists alongside our own world.

In real sense, myths give explicit shape and form to a reality that people perceive intuitively.  Myths explain to us how the gods and other spirits behave, their characters, their dos and don’t, their expectations and taboos, which enable us limit these powerful beings on that we can experience divinity. Myths make a human being seek out his moment of ecstasy as he feels deeply touched within and lifted momentarily beyond himself.

The mythological theory is applicable to the understanding of the content of the two plays, Ozidi and Death and The Kings Horseman

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