A Dance of the Forests

A Dance of the Forests

A Dance of the Forests: A Dance of the Forests is one of the most recognized of Wole Soyinka's plays. The play "was presented at the Nigerian Independence celebrations in 1960, it ... denigrated the glorious African past and warned Nigerians and all Africans that their energies henceforth should be spent trying to avoid repeating the mistakes that have already been made." A Dance of the Forests At the time of its release, it was an iconoclastic work that angered many of the elite in Soyinka's native Nigeria. Politicians were particularly incensed at his prescient portrayal of post-colonial Nigerian politics as aimless and corrupt. A Dance of the Forests Despite the deluge of criticism, the play remains an influential work. In it, Soyinka espouses a unique vision for a new Africa, one that is able to forge a new identity free from the influence of European imperialism.

A Dance of the Forests: A Dance of the Forests is regarded as Soyinka's theatrical debut and has been considered the most complex and difficult to understand of his plays.In it, Soyinka unveils the rotten aspects of the society and demonstrates that the past is no better than the present when it comes to the seamy side of life. A Dance of the Forests He lays bare the fabric of the Nigerian society and warns people as they are on the brink of a new stage in their history: independence.

The play begins with a Dead Man and a Dead Woman breaking free from their burial in the soil in the middle of a forest. They ask those that pass by to "take their case." A Dance of the Forests The Man and Woman were a captain and his wife in a past life and were tortured and killed by an Emperor by the name of Mata Kharibu and his Queen, nicknamed Madame Tortoise. A Dance of the Forests A Dance of the Forests The Dead Man and his wife have come to the Gathering of the Tribes, and were sent here by Aroni, a god, with permission from the Forest Head, in place of the forefathers that the living have requested to join them.

A Dance of the Forests: Four characters come through the forest initially: Rola, a prostitute, once known as Madame Tortoise and a queen from the previous life; Adenebi, a court historian in the time of the Emperor Mata Kharibu, now a council orator; Agboreko, who was a soothsayer to Mata Kharibu in a past life and plays the same role in this life; and finally, Demoke, who is now a carver but was once a poet in the court. A Dance of the Forests Aroni has selected these four in order for them to gain knowledge about their past lives and to atone for their sins.

Another character, Obaneji, is actually the Forest Head disguised in human form. He invites the characters to join in a welcome dance for the Dead Man and Woman. Eshuoro, a wayward spirit seeking vengeance for the death of Oremole, Demoke's apprentice, comes and interrupts the proceedings. A Dance of the Forests He claims that Demoke killed him by pulling him off the top of an araba tree they were carving, which caused him to fall to his death. Ogun, the god of carvers, stands up for Demoke against Eshuoro's claim. We learn that Demoke encouraged the cutting of the araba tree, and also that there was a great fire in which 65 of 70 people were killed.

A Dance of the Forests

A Dance of the Forests: As the play moves forward we are taken back in time into the court of Mata Kharibu, where we learn that the Dead Man was a soldier who led Karibu's men. A Dance of the Forests The soldier refuses to go to war against another tribe because Kharibu has taken the tribe leader's wife, Madame Tortoise.

All of the characters from the earlier part of the play (but from later in time) are seen as the court counselors of Kharibu. They do not help the soldier, who is castrated and given to a slave dealer. The scene ends as the soldier's wife comes in, pregnant. It is left up to the audience to determine how she is killed.

A Dance of the Forests: The forests are then smoked out by humans with a petrol truck. The Forest Head says that he must "pierce the encrustations of soul-deadening habit, and bare the mirror of original nakedness." He exits knowing that he is alone in his fight. Demoke is led to climb up a totem he built by Eshuoro, who lights the totem on fire. Demoke falls and joins his father and the other mortals and they discuss what they have learned.

Written and first performed in 1960 as part of the national celebrations of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, A Dance of the Forests features a unique combination of classically European dramatic elements and traditional Yoruba masquerade traditions which make the play resistant to both staging and traditional Western criticism. Since 1960, few attempts have been made to perform the play, due to its complexity and ambiguity. A Dance of the Forests presents an allegorical criticism of the political condition of postcolonial Africa and of the recurring political patterns in Nigeria. The play, considered iconoclastic upon its debut, criticizes Nigerian history in order to satirize the political elite of the newly independent Nigerian government and resists nationalistic notions of a historical or future Golden Age in Nigerian history. A Dance of the Forests The playwright, Wole Soyinka, also resisted the popular African literary and philosophical movement of Negritude, a movement he criticized for overly glorifying Africa’s pre-colonial past. Soyinka was the first sub-Saharan African author to be awarded a Nobel Prize (1986) and is recognized today as one of the most respected Nigerian authors. A Dance of the Forests In addition to his work as a playwright, Soyinka has been active in Nigerian politics for several decades, including advocating for Nigeria’s independence, and he was imprisoned in solitary confinement for two years during the Nigerian civil war (1967-70), after a military coup following increased political tensions as the federal government took control of indigenous Yoruba land. After his release, Soyinka continued to publish poetry, drama and political criticism prolifically and today remains an outspoken political activist.

A Dance of the Forests: A Dead Man and a Dead Woman are summoned to a tribal gathering by the deity Aroni. Instead of inviting more illustrious ancestors to the festival, Aroni chooses the dead couple because they  were wronged by the previous incarnations of several of the play’s living human characters. A Dance of the Forests These characters—Demoke, Rola, Adenebi, and Agboreko—meet and reject the dead couple and argue about political corruption before being led off into the forest by Obaneji, who is really the chief Orisha (or god), the Forest Head, in disguise as a human. Meanwhile, strife brews between the gods Eshuoro and Ogun. Ogun is Demoke the carver’s patron god, and Eshuoro is angry that Demoke carved Oro’s (another Orisha) sacred tree into an idol for the festival, and because Demoke killed his assistant Oremole, who was also a devotee of Eshuoro. The Orisha and the dead plan to gather with the living in the forest to redress the wrongs of the past. In Part 2 of the play, The Forest Head turns back time eight centuries, shifting the setting to the Court of Mata Kharibu, when the dead couple lived. Mata Kharibu wishes to wage war for a frivolous cause. The Dead Man, known as “the Warrior” in the past, refuses to lead his soldiers into battle for such a cause. For his defiance, the Warrior is castrated and enslaved and his pregnant wife, who is the Dead Woman from Part 1, dies soon after. Demoke, Rola, Adenebi, and Agboreko’s ancestors (the Court Poet, Madame Tortoise, the Court Historian, and the Soothsayer, respectively) all play a part in the fate of the Warrior and his wife.

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