Traces of Afrocentricity in the Lion and the Jewel and the Road by Wole Soyinka

By Zargar, Sara | The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online), June 2012 | Go to article overview

Traces of Afrocentricity in the Lion and the Jewel and the Road by Wole Soyinka


Zargar, Sara, The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)


Abstract

Afrocentricity in literature is a viewpoint that encourages writers to victoriously write about the history and culture of Africa. Thus, an act to free African art and culture from Eurocentrism that often acts as a virus in countries outside the Eurocentric paradigm. This study explores the possibilities and limits of Afrocentricity in two plays, The Lion and the Jewel and The Road by Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian Noble Prize winner in literature. The project applies a postcolonial approach and an Afrocentric point of view by arguing that postcolonial literature is a by-product of degradation and pressure from colonial powers onto colonized people, as a result, they have decided to confront the external powers of colonialism. It is also argued, the results of this confrontation are new systems of thought, including Afrocentricity. This study, therefore, views Wole Soyinka as a playwright who takes advantage of his Yoruba traditions and rituals to selfconsciously present it to the world.

Introduction

Akivande Oluwole Soyinka was born on the 13thof July in 1934 in Abekuta in the western section of Nigeria; he is a dramatist, poet, novelist, literary critic, theatre director, sometime actor, and the first Nigerian Noble Prize winner for literature in 1986 (Euba 438). He was born in Nigeria to a well-educated family when it was still a British colony; Soyinka has strong feelings and roots in Yoruba culture, an element of life that has filled much of his works (ibid.). Hence, "he seeks to make the worldview of his native Yoruba relevant to his work as an artist who uses Western forms" (George 267).

Soyinka can be considered a victim of colonialism, as he witnessed Europeans trying to change his Yoruba culture to fit their own, thus, he acknowledged the dangers and evils of colonialism concerning every person that has been hurt from colonialism (Wilson). In this regard, Wilson also claims that Soyinka sees the African artistic or cultural essence either absent from or dependent upon Western ideas; which has been forced into silence, but never denied its own being.

According to George, Soyinka intends to show that African people have rich cultural traditions and systems of thoughts that can be considered an alternative to Euro-American traditions (269).

Hence, this article observes the traces of Afrocentricity and Yoruba culture in selected plays of Wole Soyinka relevant to MolefiKete Asante's definition of Afrocentricity. Thus, Asante believes that the Afrocentric cultural project is a sacred plan to reconstruct and develop every aspect of the African world from the viewpoint of Africa as subject, rather than as object (134). Second, he also claims that African writers should insert an African way of living and thinking and thus their rituals, traditions, rites, beliefs and customs should work victoriously, in order to project an African perspective, as we can observe in the victorious manner of The Lion and the Jewel.

Within the primarily Anglophone field of postcolonial studies, the analysis of African literature has largely meant the analysis of writing in English. Many critics have focused exclusively on the post-Second World War period, as though African literature had emerged solely in this period as a response to the tyranny of colonialism (Murphy 62). In the response and reaction to colonialism, some movements occurred such as nationalist and postcolonial movements. Accordingly, postcolonialism has some branches which includes Ethnocentricity, and thus Eurocentricity, Sinocentricity and Afrocentericity. Here authors according to their origins or preference may choose one of these methods to write their literary works. Those who pick Afrocenticity as their method therefore try to write about African culture, tradition, belief, religion, and ways of living and thinking in an African context, in order to demonstrate heritage and express pride as they can resist Eurocentricity, which reflects upon a colonial experience. …

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