Archetypes, Imprecators, and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama

By Femi Euba | Go to book overview
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mental presence of the African god. And there is even the case of the survival of the Black Church in North America, which seemingly assimilated the Christian doctrine completely but only to establish its own brand of worship with obvious African influences. Syncretism, therefore, was a ruse for the survival of the black slave, and it is consistent with the ironies and satiric subtleties of Esu which, as already stated, are usually misconceived or offhandedly regarded as simply pranks.

As a consequence of these "elegbarine" ironies of the worshipper and the worshipped, the present work tries to reexamine the role of Sambo in North American slavery in relation to the role of Esu in the black world. More important, the black writer's creative potential, as a devotee of Esu, is examined through his or her dramatic expression in relation to the ritual and satiric concept of the god. But such a consideration can be possible only after a firm analysis of Esu's fateful and fatal implications and manifestations, and the impact of these on his people as victims of fate and satire.

The satiric concept of Esu-Elegbara relates, first and foremost, to the theatre of the black. However, theatre really should hold no cultural boundaries. Therefore, it is my hope that this work will also be a contribution to the inexhaustible theories on theatre, specifically concepts on the role of ritual and satire in culture and drama. For the drama of Esu-Elegbara is nothing more than a drama that is committed to expose a social disease and by so doing affect the sensibilities of the afflicted society or culture, in this case the black culture. For Esu, as much as a satirist, is more than just a fate-manipulating intermediary of sacrifices between gods and men. On the other hand, this "epidemic" concept of theatre, according to Antonin Artaud, is not limited to any one kind of theatre. He says, "In a true theatre a play disturbs the senses' repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolt . . . and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic."36 This archetypal function of the theatre through drama I shall try to express, and hope to make clearer, with Esu-Elegbara who, to my mind, has unlimited resources for the theatre of the black as well as theatre as a whole.

Addison Gayle, ed., The Black Aesthetic ( New York: Doubleday, 1971); Errol Hill , ed., The Theatre of Black Americans, 2 vols. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice- Hall, 1980); Amiri Baraka [LeRoi Jones], "The Revolutionary Theatre," in Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones ( New York: William Moffow, 1979), 130-133. Originally printed in Amiri Baraka, Home, Social Essays ( New York: William Morrow, 1966), 210-215; Paul Carter Harrison, The Drama of Nommo ( New York: Grove Press, 1972); Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World ( Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976).
Soyinka, Myth, Literature, 140-160.
See Juana E. and Deoscoredes M. dos Santos, Esu Bara Laroye ( lbadan, Nigeria: Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, 1971), 28.


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