Blood on the Tides

Blood on the Tides: "The Ozidi Saga" and Oral Epic Narratology

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Blood on the Tides
    Book Description:

    The Ozidi Saga is one of Africa's best known prosimetric epics, set in the Delta region of Nigeria. Blood on the Tides examines the epic -- a tale of a warrior and his sorcerer grandmother's revenge upon the assassins who killed her son -- both as an example of oral literature and as a reflection of the specific social and political concerns of the Nigerian Delta and the country as a whole. Okpewho examines various iterations of the saga, including a performance of the entire saga in 1963 in Ibadan by the folk artist Okabou Okobolo. This performance was subsequently transcribed, translated, and edited by the renowned Nigerian poet, playwright, and scholar John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo. Isidore Okpewho is Distinguished Professor of Africana Studies, English, and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University (SUNY). He is the author of The Epic in Africa, Myth in Africa, African Oral Literature, and Once Upon a Kingdom. An award-winning novelist, he has published four titles: The Victims, The Last Duty, Tides, and Call Me By My Rightful Name.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-847-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Ijo: Their Home, History, and Culture
    (pp. 1-33)

    The story inThe Ozidi Sagais roughly as follows. A brave warrior is killed by a gang of his colleagues whom he has led in an expedition to gather the articles (chiefly, a human head from a neighboring community) to be used in solemnizing the coronation of his brother. They have conspired against him because they do not want the kingship of their nation, which has passed by right to his family, to be assumed by the warrior’s brother, who happens to be intellectually deficient—an “idiot,” in the argot of the story. Soon after the warrior has died,...

  5. 2 Other Voices, Other Texts
    (pp. 34-50)

    In so many ways, then, our narrator Okabou Ojobolo has constructed a hero who represents—sometimes by reflection, sometimes by refraction—a viable measure of the physical and metaphysical worlds that define Ijo culture and society. It remains for us to evaluate Clark-Bekederemo’s effort in transporting Okabou’s presentation of this jewel of Ijo oral tradition from the fluid medium of performance to the fixity of print. However, in discussing the Ozidi story as it emerges from the texts available to us, we need to be careful about embracing a rigid view of what has often glibly been called “tradition.” The...

  6. 3 The Narrative Art of Okabou Ojobolo
    (pp. 51-86)

    Hardly anything of significance is known about the life and personality of Okabou, who gave us his version of the Ijo story inThe Ozidi Saga. In a sense, this is not so surprising when we think of legendary narrators like Homer in the ancient Greek world. Until folklore achieved recognition as an organized discipline, folk artists like Okabou were usually seen by the general public as interesting but incidental figures. I myself faintly recall itinerant oral artists like Ogbakwu who narrated and sang their way across the world of my youth in Asaba, though I can hardly recall any...

  7. 4 The Narrator and His Audience
    (pp. 87-114)

    As I have pointed out, Okabou told the Ozidi story to an audience in Ibadan at a time when the political climate there was deteriorating. Partisan politics was increasingly bringing rivals into confrontation—ideological, physical, and otherwise—with one another. Civic institutions were steadily collapsing, the prospects of peaceful resolution were gradually declining, and it was clear to many people that the country was heading toward catastrophe of some sort. In this kind of atmosphere, would the storyteller tell the sort of story he has usually told to fellow citizens back in the delta? How would such a story be...

  8. 5 Performance and Plot
    (pp. 115-147)

    In the traditional context in which the career of the hero Ozidi was recalled—an annual festival of seven days’ duration, involving a variety of symbolic rituals as well as singing and dancing—the reenactment took the form primarily of dramatization of key moments or episodes in the myth; the full story was never told in a coherent sequence from a canonical beginning to a canonical end. This way, there was ample room for the ritual officiant, dressed in white apparel and holding objects traditionally identified with the hero, to engage in song and dance sequences involving participation of acolytes...

  9. 6 Music, Song, and Story
    (pp. 148-179)

    The Ozidi Sagais an epic because of the scale of its conception and its cultural relevance. But it belongs, at a basic formal level, to the class of oral narratives usually classified aschante-fable, a free-form story interspersed with songs that often draw participation from members of the audience (Kubik, 134).¹ It is, indeed, unlikely that verbal art of this scale can be achieved or sustained without the sort of impetus that music and song lend to a full-scale performance. Epic narration, as anyone who has observed it would readily agree, demands such an enormous amount of energy—physical,...

  10. 7 Ozidi, the Ijo, and the World
    (pp. 180-230)

    So far in this study, I have examinedThe Ozidi Sagaas a work of oral art on the evidence of a text of the Ozidi story presented by one master narrator, Okabou Ojobolo of Sama, whom Clark-Bekederemo had the singular good fortune to record in a command performance. Although the story has long flourished as part of a periodic festival no longer vibrantly observed as in the past among the Ijo of the Niger Delta, there has been no other record of it comparable in size and significance to what Okabou has given us. The 16mm film made by...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 231-256)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 257-268)
  13. Index
    (pp. 269-279)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 280-283)