Academic journal article History In Africa

A Male-Centric Modification of History: Efunsetan Aniwura Revisited

Academic journal article History In Africa

A Male-Centric Modification of History: Efunsetan Aniwura Revisited

Article excerpt

I

Historical drama can be described as a form of drama which purports to reflect or represent historical proceedings. Since time immemorial writers have combined fiction and history in creative works. Lawrence Langner has ascribed the popularity of historical drama to the desire of the theatergoer to spend an evening in the company of kings, queens, and other historical personages; the opportunity to become familiar with far greater events than those which take place in the lives of ordinary people; and that historical plays recreate great deeds done by great personages in the past.1 Historical facts are then creatively adapted and made available in play form to the audience. Adaptation has been defined as "the rewriting of a work from its original form to fit it for another medium ... The term implies an attempt to retain the characters, actions, and as much as possible of the language and tone of the original . . ."2 The history play is also defined as "any drama whose time setting is in some period earlier than that in which it was written.3 We can also go further to describe the history play as one "that reconstructs a personage, a series of events, a movement, or the spirit of a past age and pays the debt of serious scholarship to the facts of the age being recreated.4

Judging from the foregoing, Akinwunmi !sola's play, Efunsetan Aniwura falls into the category of historical drama, treating as it does the story of the eponymous heroine who was the second Iyalode (queen of women) of Ibadan and who died on 30 June 1874. Prominent themes in Yoruba historical plays include war, conflict, and class struggle. Olu Obafemi has declared that the dramatization of the history, myth, and legends of the Yoruba community forms the bulk of the themes of Yoruba drama.5 These factors are vividly portrayed in Akinwunmi !sola's plays. Akinwunmi Isola is one of the most prolific playwrights who use their mother tongue to write plays in Nigeria. He is a Professor of Yoruba language and he uses the Yoruba language in writing his plays despite the fact that he is proficient in English and French languages.

The bulk of Isola's audiences are consequently the Yoruba-speaking people of western Nigeria, and others in the Diaspora. Out of Isola's eight major plays for the stage, four have overt feminine themes, but not necessarily feminist themes. They are Efunsetan Aniwura, Madam Tinubu, Olu Omo, and Governor's Campus Queen. The first three are historical plays. As a matter of fact, Ogundeji refers to him as a historical playwright, since roughly half his output are historical plays. Our main focus in this study is on Efunsetan Aniwura. We will examine how faithful to history Isola has been in his dealings with historical facts. We will also examine Isola's vision in the gender environment, situating him in a male-centric category. "Male-centric" in this respect is defined as "male- centered," having the interest of the male members of the species to the detriment of the female, projecting the male as saintlike and the female as satanic.

The dichotomy between feminine and feminist as used here can be explained thus: feminine themes have women at the center of the action, but they may not necessarily be portrayed in a sympathetic fashion. Such female characters are portrayed as choiceless, disempowered, sexually oppressed, etc. Feminist themes portray the woman as empowered both socially and politically. Usually, feminine themes appear in plays written by male authors, who massage their male ego by giving women a certain measure of visibility on stage, but not necessarily building into their characters the hopes and aspirations of the average woman. Such women are mostly unrecognizable in ordinary terms, but are the figments of the imagination of the male writers. According to Folabo Ajayi

The woman of the male creative device exists usually as a projection of the author's conception of his ideal woman, who is a class apart from the general run of women in the society. …

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