The Failure of the Modern Aesop (1) in Anglophone Cameroonian Drama: The Example of Hansel Ndumbe Eyoh's the Inheritance (2)
Besong, Bate, Journal of Third World Studies
PROLOGUE TO DISCOURSE
Hansel Ndumbe Eyoh's The Inheritance upholds the myth that reality can neither be changeable nor can the world be transformed. I have argued elsewhere (3) that the power metaphor in this play upholds the ideology of the class that deprives the ordinary, prostrate masses of Wundupie village their today and tomorrow.
In The Inheritance, Eyoh seems to subscribe to Mboh Fese's feudal notion of oppression and exploitation. This ossification of subjective embellishments in an epoch where "exchange value" has come to dominate peripheral capitalist society remains worrying. This is how Mboh Fese (Eyoh) expresses his bourgeois worldview in the play:
When you fight for it, when you conquer it, people learn to respect you, because you would have crushed a few people on the way to make your point (4).
The positive notion of a degraded, calumniated individual (as Makia Wokwo) breaking free from the logorrhea of bastardity is muted in a stasis that breaks out into a too neat catastrophe, complete with a stage littered with corpses. Such a denouement of bourgeois deception cannot be apprehended as an act of homeopathy wherein the complex of pity and fear (catharsis), becomes transformed into an ennobling experience. Neil Lazarus has argued that African literature is a:
Scalding critique of the irresponsibility of post-colonial leadership in Africa. All portray the elite as a murderously hypocritical social fraction, living not only beyond their own natural means but beyond the means of their societies as a whole. They show us the elite, thus, as a kleptocracy, with the continuing poverty and powerlessness of the peasants, proletarians, and marginals toiling below them (5).
The apparent triumph of ex-Ambassador Epie Ngous and his son, Ngoh, to the coveted throne of Wundupie village cannot be perceived either as humanity's triumph over adversity since such a vision is fractured precisely because characters in this play are never carried to some pitch of intensity but rather are given inconsequential dimension. In The Inheritance, there are neither hidden insights nor are there attempts to bring out the hidden poetry of man.
T. S. Eliot (6) submits that no work of art can remain impervious to the socio-historical truth in which it derives its provenance. He has thus argued that the inherited modes of ordering a literary work, which assumed, as it were, a relatively coherent and stable social order could not accord with the immense panorama of futility and anarchy, which is contemporary reality. New forms are needed to explore each changing reality. A practicable example of this artistic ideology is Eliot's epic of the twentieth century, 'The Wasteland' (7) where artistic dislocation is the proper mode to reflect modern man's dislocation from an accepted moral order.
If new aesthetics as a vehicle for the advancement of the continuity of mankind's consciousness and historical totality can only be meaningfully discussed within the purview of socio-political discourse essential to the dismantling of colonial and Western hegemony, as I have tried to register above, in Hansel Ndumbe Eyoh's The Inheritance, for the first time in modern Anglophone Cameroon drama, we come face to face with how the aesthetics of a bourgeois comprador elite, acquire a hegemonic status.
In presenting his "target" audience with a fourteen (14) scene play, sans act ['without Acts'] one would have thought that the author of The Inheritance has felt it necessary to experiment with a radically new form, in the conviction that persistence to either the Aristotelian or Aeschylean mode is collusion with forms of perception and expression, which cannot but defend the anachronistic order represented by Ma Mende, Sanga Tete, Nkumba, as well as the other traditional elements in his play who can charitably be dismissed as irredeemable fools. …