Redeemer's University,
College of Humanities Seminar Series

Post-Indiginist Aesthetics in
Modern African Drama
Isaiah Ilo...
Introduction

This paper highlights Post-Indiginist
Aesthetics:
A literary style in which an African dramatist
creates out...
Introduction
Post-Indiginist aesthetics represents the
following:
1. A departure from an old approach to play
writing in w...
Introduction

2. A new approach to play writing in which
African dramatists compose in current
diction to express African ...
Linguo Aesthetics

In a paper entitled “Language in Modern
African Drama,” I reconceptualised what
was previously termed "...
Linguo Aesthetics

With its variants of constructs and proponents
and a body of literature amassed in half a
century of sc...
Linguo Aesthetics

Out of the field come the three concepts
explaining the conduct of language usage in
African playwritin...
Indiginist Essentialism

According to the major exponents of Indiginist
Essentialism (Frantz Fanon, Obi Wali and
Ngugi wa ...
Indiginist Essentialism
In Indiginist Essentialism, the audience of
literature is the underclass users of a local
language...
Indiginist Hybridity
According to the major exponents of Indiginist
Hybridity (Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka,
Chinweizu, Abi...
Indiginist Hybridity

In Indiginist Hybridity, the audience of literature is
foreign and local elite readership; its purpo...
Memory of Colonialism

In answering the question: "What should
decide the choice of language for African
literature?" both...
Memory of Colonialism

The essentialists say the decider of language
for African literature is consciousness of the
coloni...
Memory of Colonialism

The hybridists agree that consciousness of the
colonial experience should preoccupy
African writers...
Post-Indiginist Aesthetics
According to the proposition of Post-Indiginist
Realism, in view of the decline of
colonialism,...
Post-Indiginist Aesthetics

In the Post-Indiginist approach, the purpose of
literature is to express any subject matter in...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The paper proceeds with an illustration of
Post-Indiginist Aesthetics, and considers
Ahmed Yerima's...
Post-Indiginist Drama

In 2006, Hard Ground won Nigeria's most
prestigious and Africa's richest literary award
- the Niger...
Post-Indiginist Drama

As may be deduced from the report of the
Panel of Judges, the play won essentially
due to its Post-...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The panel noted that some writers seem to
assume that patronizing African traditional
cultures inev...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The judges hailed Hard Ground as “writing of
high thematic value, and of national and
international...
Post-Indiginist Drama

Again, in the 2010 edition of the NLNG
competition, the panel further endorsed
the style, as Ahmed ...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The play mirrors an existing social problem the Niger Delta crisis; the dramatis-personae
are typic...
Post-Indiginist Drama
Hard Ground addresses an urgent social
problem directly, by examining the dynamics
of a crises that ...
Post-Indiginist Drama
The so-called struggle for resource control has
metamorphosed into a behemoth consuming
the people i...
Post-Indiginist Drama
In seeking social equilibrium in the Niger
Delta, the play aired the grievances of the
people, but a...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The approach may be contrasted from Ola
Rotimi's style in The Gods are Not to to
Blame (1968), an a...
Post-Indiginist Drama

In the play, incensed Odewale kills Adetusa,
an elderly stranger who spat on his
supposed tribe dur...
Post-Indiginist Drama

The play features Yoruba chants, incantations,
charms, proverbs and choral singing with
drumming. T...
Post-Indiginist Drama

Yerima too has written many such cultureasserting plays. But, it is noteworthy that of
all his many...
Post-Indiginist Drama
He did not have to rely on myth, ritual,
legend, or history; nor use characters,
setting or diction ...
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Post Indiginist Aesthetics by Dr. Isaiah Ilo

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This presentation highlights Post-Indiginist Aesthetics as entailing the following:

A departure from an old approach to play writing in which African dramatists expressed their culture by composing in their native language or presenting their indigenous traditions in a foreign language in the spirit of cultural nationalism; and

A new approach to play writing in which African dramatists compose in current diction to express African experience or event in a multicultural context, to project a universal lesson.

The thinking is that a playwright should be a voice for his time, speaking with the imagery and materials from his time rather than depend on appurtenances from the past to speak to the present.

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Post Indiginist Aesthetics by Dr. Isaiah Ilo

  1. 1. Redeemer's University, College of Humanities Seminar Series Post-Indiginist Aesthetics in Modern African Drama Isaiah Ilo, Ph.D Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Theatre Arts
  2. 2. Introduction This paper highlights Post-Indiginist Aesthetics: A literary style in which an African dramatist creates out of engagement with the pressing reality of his present environment instead of in response to by-gone colonial experience.
  3. 3. Introduction Post-Indiginist aesthetics represents the following: 1. A departure from an old approach to play writing in which African dramatists expressed their culture by composing in their native language or presenting their indigenous traditions in a foreign language in the spirit of cultural nationalism;
  4. 4. Introduction 2. A new approach to play writing in which African dramatists compose in current diction to express African experience or event in a multicultural context, to project a universal lesson.
  5. 5. Linguo Aesthetics In a paper entitled “Language in Modern African Drama,” I reconceptualised what was previously termed "the language question," "the language problem," "the language factor," or "the language debate" as a fledgling field of language aesthetics in modern African drama.
  6. 6. Linguo Aesthetics With its variants of constructs and proponents and a body of literature amassed in half a century of scholarship, the field privileges the relationship between language and literature in African writing and starts with the assumption that language use constitutes the main aesthetic and critical standard.
  7. 7. Linguo Aesthetics Out of the field come the three concepts explaining the conduct of language usage in African playwriting:  Indiginist Essentialism,  Indiginist Hybridity, and  Post-Indiginist Realism
  8. 8. Indiginist Essentialism According to the major exponents of Indiginist Essentialism (Frantz Fanon, Obi Wali and Ngugi wa Thiong'o), African literature must be written in African language: language is so loaded culturally and ideologically that its imposition by colonialism implies mental control of the colonized and its use by the colonized practically the same as propagating the worldview of the colonizers.
  9. 9. Indiginist Essentialism In Indiginist Essentialism, the audience of literature is the underclass users of a local language; the purpose is to mobilize them for revolution against neo-colonialism; in the spirit of cultural essentialism, writers should reject every linguistic influence of colonialism in favour of pre-colonial African languages, and African culture should be purveyed in the traditional languages as antithesis to hegemonic western cultural universalism.
  10. 10. Indiginist Hybridity According to the major exponents of Indiginist Hybridity (Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chinweizu, Abiola Irele, and Kwaku Asante-Darko, Lewis Nkosi, and many others), African writers can adapt the Western language to express the native experience, culture, and world-view: language consists of neutral grammatical properties that may be harnessed for cultural and ideological communication in favour of either domination or resistance: if the white man has used his language for domination, Africans can return it for resistance through literature.
  11. 11. Indiginist Hybridity In Indiginist Hybridity, the audience of literature is foreign and local elite readership; its purpose is nationalism; owing to post-colonial hybrid reality, writers should utilize the linguistic influence of colonialism blended with precolonial African oral traditions, and African culture ought to be purveyed in the blend with foreign language as antithesis to hegemonic western cultural universalism.
  12. 12. Memory of Colonialism In answering the question: "What should decide the choice of language for African literature?" both the essentialist and hybrid platforms agree that the decider should be consciousness of the colonial experience, but disagree about the stratagem.
  13. 13. Memory of Colonialism The essentialists say the decider of language for African literature is consciousness of the colonial experience for which African writers should reject the dominant colonial languages in preference for the subjugated local tongues.
  14. 14. Memory of Colonialism The hybridists agree that consciousness of the colonial experience should preoccupy African writers in the use of language, but believe the right strategy is not to reject but to subvert the dominant colonial languages.
  15. 15. Post-Indiginist Aesthetics According to the proposition of Post-Indiginist Realism, in view of the decline of colonialism, the decider of language for African literature should be consideration for target audience and character realism; language bears the tint of a user's experience as a medium of subjective communication; a writer can express self in any preferred language, and may address any chosen audience: local or international.
  16. 16. Post-Indiginist Aesthetics In the Post-Indiginist approach, the purpose of literature is to express any subject matter in a contemporary mode; in an environment of cultural diversity, a writer may use any language on the basis of competence and communicative criteria; African culture is not in assertion, in a multicultural context in which the reign of western cultural universalism has receded.
  17. 17. Post-Indiginist Drama The paper proceeds with an illustration of Post-Indiginist Aesthetics, and considers Ahmed Yerima's Prize -Winning Play, Hard Ground as a consummate representative of the emerging style.
  18. 18. Post-Indiginist Drama In 2006, Hard Ground won Nigeria's most prestigious and Africa's richest literary award - the Nigeria Prize for Literature. With the prize, the sponsor - Nigeria LNG, celebrates and projects the achievements of the country's best writers.
  19. 19. Post-Indiginist Drama As may be deduced from the report of the Panel of Judges, the play won essentially due to its Post-indiginst style. After examining 77 play entries, the panel observed a general trend among the writers “to go back to African traditional cultures in search of solutions to modern social problems.”
  20. 20. Post-Indiginist Drama The panel noted that some writers seem to assume that patronizing African traditional cultures inevitably means digging up forms of traditional worship with all its rituals and paraphernalia. “When some of the playwrights address contemporary problems,” the report said, “they attempt to solve such problems by going back to traditional roots.”
  21. 21. Post-Indiginist Drama The judges hailed Hard Ground as “writing of high thematic value, and of national and international relevance as it affects not only the nation’s deep concern with the current crises in the Niger Delta, but also Nigeria’s international image.”
  22. 22. Post-Indiginist Drama Again, in the 2010 edition of the NLNG competition, the panel further endorsed the style, as Ahmed Yerima's Little Drops and Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba's The Killing Swamps, both of which were written in the Post-indiginist style and equally addressed new perspectives of the current Niger Delta crisis, were finalists.
  23. 23. Post-Indiginist Drama The play mirrors an existing social problem the Niger Delta crisis; the dramatis-personae are typical characters from the region; the setting is equally an existing one – the Niger Delta territory, which was the site of the crisis; and the diction of the play consists of words actually used in the crisis.
  24. 24. Post-Indiginist Drama Hard Ground addresses an urgent social problem directly, by examining the dynamics of a crises that had become a major headache. The situation, as the play reveals, is a result of the greed, doubledealing and rivalry of the elite of Niger Delta, which sees them sending the boys against their opponents, and the boys themselves eventually growing up in virulence and consuming even their sponsors.
  25. 25. Post-Indiginist Drama The so-called struggle for resource control has metamorphosed into a behemoth consuming the people it sought to help. By looking at the sore Niger Delta problem and discussing it, the play itself was an important contribution toward dialogue, peace building and conflict resolution. Its message was driven home: A hater might make a victim of his object, but he equally ends up a victim of his hate.
  26. 26. Post-Indiginist Drama In seeking social equilibrium in the Niger Delta, the play aired the grievances of the people, but at the same time denounced the excesses in how the agitation was conducted. Perhaps, the play, whose stage performance toured the nine states of the Delta, helped in getting the people prepared to eventually accept the amnesty proposal of the Federal Government.
  27. 27. Post-Indiginist Drama The approach may be contrasted from Ola Rotimi's style in The Gods are Not to to Blame (1968), an adaptation of a Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, which the playwright explained as an allegory of the Nigerian Civil War of 1966 – 1970.
  28. 28. Post-Indiginist Drama In the play, incensed Odewale kills Adetusa, an elderly stranger who spat on his supposed tribe during a brawl on his farm. Later he discovers that the man was his father and the woman he subsequently married was wife to the man and his own mother.
  29. 29. Post-Indiginist Drama The play features Yoruba chants, incantations, charms, proverbs and choral singing with drumming. The deities are invoked. However, without the disclosure by the playwright, about the play being a metaphor of the Biafran War, it is difficult to associate the play with that event.
  30. 30. Post-Indiginist Drama Yerima too has written many such cultureasserting plays. But, it is noteworthy that of all his many plays, Hard Ground which is post-indiginist is so far the most popular. In Hard Ground, the playwright addressed a contemporary problem using contemporary characters, setting and diction.
  31. 31. Post-Indiginist Drama He did not have to rely on myth, ritual, legend, or history; nor use characters, setting or diction from the past allegorically to address a contemporary social problem. The lesson from Hard Ground and the PostIndiginist approach is that a playwright should be a voice for his time, speaking with the imagery and materials from his time rather than depend on appurtenances from the past to speak to the present.

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