Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora by Paul Carter Harrison

By Paul Carter Harrison

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Each of the nine egwugwu represented a village of the clan. Their leader was called Evil Forest. Smoke poured out of his head. . Okonkwo’s wives, and perhaps other women as well, might have noticed that the second egwugwu had the springy walk of Okonkwo. And they might also have noticed that Okonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row of egwugwu. The egwugwu with the springy walk was one of the dead fathers of the clan. He looked terrible with the smoked raffia body, a huge wooden face painted white except for the round hollow eyes and the charred teeth that were as big as a man’s fingers.

Let there then be as great a variety as possible of theatrical fare, and let each man relate to what most draws him, so long as the relating is deep and meaningful and so long as people of the theatre strive continually to create and foster those conditions that make such relating possible for everincreasing numbers within the community. Thus it matters little whether comedy or tragedy or absurdity—these are merely different forms determined by the nature of the dramatic theme and awareness to be communicated; whether expressionism or naturalism or symbolism—these are merely stylistic modes employed to give greater impact to the impersonator’s “message” and aid our surrender to the dramatic ritual; and whether prescenium or arena stage, candlelight or daylight—these are no more than convenient devices that the theatre artist resorts to in order to give a certain definition to the dramatic presentation and thereby enhance, hopefully, the intensity of the theatrical experience.

Soyinka, Myth, Literature, 38. 4. Tejumola Olaniyan, Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 11. 5. Mergot Berthold, The History of World Theater (New York: Continuum, 1972), 9. 6. William B. Branch, Crosswinds: An Anthology of Black Dramatists in the Diaspora (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1993), xii, xiv, xxvi. 7. Ibid. J. C. de Graft Roots in African Drama and Theatre In a book on Haiti published in 1929, W. B. 1 The worship of the Voodoo god Damballa Ouedo would seem to require periodically the sacrifice of a human being, and in the distant past humans may actually have been so sacrificed.

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