altThe relevance of Ola Rotimi’s God Are Not To Blame and Barclays Ayakoroma’s Dance on His Grave, to contemporary African society, has been likened to Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex and Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, to Greek Society.  

Three Nigerian literary scholars, Chioma Toni-Duruaku, Meg Obioma and Kenneth Chukwu, who made this observation in a joint article, published in Nka: A Journal of the Arts, of the School of Arts, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria, noted that in God Are Not To Blame, Ola Rotimi put side by side African experience using a Greek play, Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, and that both add colour to the two Greek plays and culture, using the African culture.

In an essay, titled, “Greek Body in Nigerian Garbs and Soul:  Reading of Ayakoroma’s Dance On His Grave and Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame,” the critics averred that both African playwrights (Ayakoroma and Rotimi) have deployed their licenses as literary artists, using adaptation to reshape and renovate the Greek texts from their native culture and environment to suit African cultural background of Izon and Yoruba.

Pointing out such features in Dance On His Grave and Gods Are Not To Blame that correspond with Lysistara and Oedipus Rex, the Essayists noted that change in name of a character like Alaere in Dance On His Grave is the adapted character for Lysistrata in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata; and there is change in the time and place, as Lysistrata, which was written in 411 BC was adapted in 2002 as Dance On His Grave in Nigeria, Africa.

Also, whereas Lysistrata as a character is beautiful and tall, Alaere, as a character, is given the physique of Lampito, the Spartan, who in Lysistrata, is described as stout, because of the exercises she does. The war between Athens and Sparta is political, whereas in Dance On His Grave, the war between Toru-Ama and Angiama, as revealed by Alaere, is just because a son of Angiama eloped with a chief’s daughter from Toru-Ama; and King Oedipus in Oedipus Rex is called Odewale, and Queen Jocasta in the same play is Queen Ojuola in Gods Are Not To Blame.

The study further observed that: “A close look at the introductory parts of the Chorus in Lysistrata and Erebu in Dance On His Grave reveals such similarities of the use of wisecraaltcks, proverbs and storytelling techniques. So, in both cultures, tales are started off the same way so as to capture the attention of the target audience as well as to teach morals. Also, Oedipus Rex and Gods Are Not To Blame explore the limit of human frailty of human happiness as well as the limits of human knowledge. It is important to observe that Dance On His Grave and Gods Are Not To Blame through their adaptations suit the African experience and are very relevant. They add colour to the two Greek plays as they announce their originality in terms of being entirely new drama piece. They are germane to the African socio-cultural experience having taken into cognizance African nuances as a people.”

However, to appreciate the power of adaptation in drama, Ayakoroma, the Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), had noted in the Author’s note of Dance On His Grave that: “To some extent, Dance On His Grave, has drawn from The Father by August Strindberg (1849-1912).”

Since its publication, Dance On is Grave has received outstanding attention from the theatre community in Nigeria. Apart from the University of Port Harcourt, where it was premiered and has been produced severally, Arts Councils, Theatre Arts Departments in Nigerian Universities, Theatre Troupes, and the NICO Cultural Troupe, have performed it.

Only recently, Arojah Royal Theatre in Abuja, organized “Festival of Barclays Ayakoroma Plays (FESTIBAP),” in which Dance On His Grave was among the plays that were staged alongside Castles in the Air and Beyond the Camp.

Nwagbo Nnenyelike
Corporate Affairs