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African Theatre 13: Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka

African Theatre 13: Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka

Martin Banham
Femi Osofisan
Guest Editor Kimani Njogu
Reviews Editor Martin Banham
Series: African Theatre
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    African Theatre 13: Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka
    Book Description:

    Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong'o are the pre-eminent playwrights of West and East Africa respectively and their work has been hugely influential across the continent. This volume features directors' experiences of recent productions of their plays, the voices of actors and collaborators who have worked with the playwrights, and also provides a digest of their theatrical output. Contributors provide new readings of Ngugi and Soyinka's classic texts, and a stimulating new approach for students of English, Theatre and African studies. The playscript for this volume is a previously unpublished radio play by Wole Soyinka entitled A Rain of Stones, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2002. Volume Editors: MARTIN BANHAM & FEMI OSOFISAN Guest Editor: KIMANI NJOGU Series Editors: Martin Banham, Emeritus Professor of Drama & Theatre Studies, University of Leeds; James Gibbs, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, University of the West of England; Femi Osofisan, Professor of Drama at the University of Ibadan; Jane Plastow, Professor of African Theatre, University of Leeds; Yvette Hutchison, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Performance Studies, University of Warwick

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-386-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Obituary of Yulisa Amadu Maddy (27 December 1936–16 March 2014)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    James Gibbs
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiv-xvi)

    The editorial team ofAfrican Theatrewelcome Professor Kimani Njogu as a guest editor of this volume, which is devoted to the theatre of Wole Soyinka and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Kimani Njogu, formerly of Kenyatta University, is now an independent scholar, Director of Twaweza Communications in Nairobi, and publisher ofJahazi, a journal of the arts, culture and performance. He has brought us his wide range of contacts amongst the theatre community of Kenya, and his deep knowledge of the theatre of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Femi Osofisan, of the core editorial team, has brought together the material on the theatre...

  6. Reading & Performing African Drama How Wole Soyinka & Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o influenced my work
    (pp. 1-7)

    This essay tries to pin down how a book or play influences a reader. Specifically I want to chart some of the influences that Wole Soyinka’sKongi’s HarvestandI will Marry When I Wantby Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Ngũgĩ wa Mĩriĩ have had on me personally and on my theatre practice in Africa. I shall try to show how, in addition to a play’s content, other determining factors are important, such as the age of the reader, the place where s/he reads the text, the performance or non-performance of the text and previous influences that the author has...

  7. Ayan Contra Ujamaa Soyinka & Ngũgĩ as theatre theorists
    (pp. 8-14)

    Ayan is the Yoruba god of music and patron deity of the arts of drumming. His name stands as a prefix in the patronymics of families and lineages either devoted in earlier times to his worship or descended from great practitioners of the art and practice of drum music: Ayanniyi, Ayandele, Ayanlaja, Ayanwole, Ayanbiyi. Like many other African peoples, music was and remains a central aspect of the ritual, festive and daily lives of Yorubas. For this reason, Ayan, the god of music, is one of the most ubiquitous deities in the Yoruba pantheon, even though he is not as...


    • I Working with Wole Soyinka
      (pp. 17-23)

      Tunji Oyelana spoke to Sola Adeyemi at Emukay Restaurant, Camberwell, London, in April 2014. Oyelana is a long-time collaborator and was a member of Wole Soyinka’s groups in the 1960s. In this interview, he reminisces about the early days ofOrisun Theatreand his roles in the company up to the start of the Nigerian civil war in 1967.

      My story with ‘Prof.’ (Wole Soyinka) started in 1960. I was the Private Secretary to Chief Kosoko of Lagos and was also managing his elementary school, Oba Kosoko School, which was situated on the ground floor of [the] palace. I was...

    • II The Difficulties of a Neophyte Staging Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy
      (pp. 24-28)

      It was in the year 2003, towards the end of October that as an undergraduate student at the University of Ibadan, I decided to produce and direct Wole Soyinka’sThe Beatification of Area Boy. I was not a directing student, but every undergraduate in the department of theatre arts at that time had the liberty to venture into any area of the creative arts that caught his or her interest. To a very large extent, I believed that I was ripe for such a task because I have always been a firm believer in learning both the theory and practice...

    • III Pentecostalizing Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero
      (pp. 29-31)

      In February 2009, I decided to produce Soyinka’s comedy,The Trials of Brother Jero. It was to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my company, Arambe Productions, (Arambe), Ireland’s first African theatre company. Mindful of my Irish audience, particularly the feminists, who could (mis)construe Soyinka’s comedy as a creative endorsement of domestic violence or wife-battering, I decided to adapt it, using what I termed ‘the pervasive phenomenon of Pentecostalism’ in modern-day Nigeria as a backdrop. I sought and obtained Soyinka’s permission, and immediately went to work.

      Instead of a Brother Jero, a charlatan Bar Beach prophet, the protagonist in my version...

    • IV The Lion & the Jewel in Mombasa
      (pp. 32-34)

      In December 2013, I took responsibility for a Kenyan production ofThe Lion and the Jewelat the Little Theatre in Mombasa. This show was the first step and project that I took into the world of directing and I must say it was quite an experience. After I finished my Trainer of Trainees level of performance training, The Theatre Company of Kenya (TTC) put me in charge of the project as the director. I have always had an interest in directing but didn’t know it was going to come that soon. With TTC overseeing the whole process, I worked...


    • I Choru wa Mũirũrĩ Reflections on the Kamĩrĩĩthũ experience
      (pp. 37-41)

      Choru wa Mũirũrĩ was born 62 years ago in Kamaandũra – a village near Kamĩrĩĩthũ – but grew up in Kamĩrĩĩthũ itself, where his father, a settler’s cook, stationed his young family during the period of independence agitation in a concentration village which had been established by the then colonial administration in its effort at quashing the Mau Mau rebellion. He started his primary education at Lĩmuru Mission Primary, then called Holy Ghost Missionary and proceeded to Ngenia High School for his O-level education.

      Kamĩrĩĩthũ Community and Education Centre was established in 1976. Its main agenda was improvement of literacy in Kamĩrĩĩthũ...

    • II Producing I Will Marry When I Want in South Africa
      (pp. 42-47)

      From casual conversations that I had had with a variety of theatre practitioners in Nairobi, I had gathered that Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s plays were extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stage. Their main problem was the huge cast required to give life to the many characters in them. How can a theatre practitioner anywhere in the world, mostly working with minimum funding, hope to stage a work so demanding without collapsing? A huge cast requires many hours of rehearsing, an expensive wardrobe, managerial stress from the massaging of the numerous actors’ and actresses’ egos, and a suitable venue for the...

    • III Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o The unrecognized Black Hermit
      (pp. 48-52)

      One could easily argue that Ngũgĩ is one of Kenya’s most significant cultural exports. Over half a century, he has penned celebrated plays, novels, essays and has been fêted all over the world. His books are translated into over thirty languages. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has been honoured with countless awards as well as honorary doctorate degrees. In his motherland, he remains the proverbial unaccepted prophet. His detention and subsequent flight from Kenya to escape political persecution made him more famous, or infamous. At the height of the political intolerance of Moi’s autocratic regime, Ngũgĩ was a pariah in his homeland....

    • IV Kamĩrĩĩthũ in Retrospect
      (pp. 53-59)

      In ‘Kenyan Theatre after Kaĩmrĩĩthũ I argued that

      … in its use of a local language as the medium of a major theatre production, Kamĩrĩĩthũ broke new ground. The effort at class-conscious theatre done by, for, and with the lower classes was also something new in Kenyan theatre. No intellectuals had been involved in this kind of effort before, nor has it been reproduced since. In relocating Kenyan theatre from the petty-bourgeois base at the institution of higher learning to the workers and peasants, Kamĩrĩĩthũ was also successful. (1999: 73)

      I also provocatively stated that that Kamĩrĩĩthũ was a product...

  10. Wole Soyinka & Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Plays in Production
    (pp. 60-76)

    Two giants of African theatre, Wole Soyinka and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, have been involved in very different kinds of work, and the differences are apparent in the production histories of their work that follows. To keep the Soyinka part of this chapter within manageable proportions, only one of his plays is considered here. It is, appropriately, a well-known work, and one that has been given both relatively modest and extensively reviewed ‘main stage’ productions:Death and the King’s Horseman(1976). The Ngũgĩ part of this chapter, prepared with limited resources and under pressure of time, seeks to suggest the scope...

  11. The Making of The Trial of Dedan Kĩmathi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o & Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo at the University of California, Irvine A personal reflection
    (pp. 77-92)

    Ketu Katrak offers a personal record of a major production ofThe Trial of Dedan Kĩmathiat the University of California, Irvine. She describes the process of creating the production, the contribution of Prof. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (UCI) and Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo, to the experience, and the response of student actors and the audience. This is a graphic description of a rare production of one of the major works of modern African theatre.(Eds)

    The stage was on fire as the Britishaskarisstoically defended the British colonial policy of dehumanizing and subjugating the African, and the African, led by...

  12. Playscript A Rain of Stones A Play for Radio
    (pp. 93-109)

    Music from a portable cd player. Sound of pick and shovel. Scraping. An archeological dig is in progress. A sharp increase in the tempo of scraping and displacement of pebbles, accompanied by heavy, excited breathing.

    Pause, during which the music is heard more clearly – oriental music – raga or similar mode.

    The sound of a small shovel dropped, then softer sounds as bare hands take over and earth is brushed aside.

    Meklis [Intense, barely suppressed excitement] Pass me the brush.

    Risela It’s in your pocket, Dr. Tekilis

    Meklis Oh, so it is, excuse me.

    Risela You think... ?

    Meklis Without a...

  13. Book Reviews

    • New Plays from Africa

      • Munyaradzi Mawere, Rain Petitioning & Step Child (Plays)
        (pp. 110-110)
        Osita Okagbue
      • Kelvin Ngong Toh, Fointama: A Play
        (pp. 110-111)
        Osita Okagbue
      • Bole Butake, Dance of the Vampires and Six other Plays
        (pp. 111-113)
        Osita Okagbue
      • Francis Imbuga, The Green Cross of Kafira
        (pp. 113-113)
        Osita Okagbue
      • Samuel Kasule, Resistance and Politics in Contemporary East African Theatre: Trends in Ugandan Theatre since 1960
        (pp. 113-115)
        Jane Plastow
      • Astrid van Weyenberg, The Politics of Adaptation: Contemporary African Drama and Greek Tragedy
        (pp. 116-118)
        Christine Matzke
      • Galina Balashova, Drama in Modern Ethiopian Literature and Theatre
        (pp. 119-120)
        Jane Plastow
      • Bernth Lindfors, Ira Aldridge: Vol. 3, Performing Shakespeare in Europe, 1852-1855
        (pp. 121-122)
        Colin Chambers
      • Nadja Keller, Christoph Nix, Thomas Spieckermann (eds) Theater in Afrika: Zwischen Kunst und Entwicklungszusammenarbeit: Geschichten einer deutsch-malawischen Kooperation / Theatre in Africa: Between Art and Development Cooperation: Stories of a German-Malawian Collaboration (Recherchen 106)
        (pp. 122-124)
        Laurenz Leky
      • Yvette Hutchison, South African Performance and Archives of Memory
        (pp. 125-126)
        Jane Taylor
      • Kene Igweonu and Osita Okagbue (eds), Performative Inter-Actions in African Theatre
        (pp. 127-127)
        Martin Banham
    • Notice on a forthcoming title:

      • Alain Ricard, Wole Soyinka et Nestor Zinsou: De la scène à l’espace public
        (pp. 127-128)
        Femi Osofisan
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 129-129)