“The End of Nigerian History”: Wole Soyinka and Yorùbá Historiography


Glenn A. Odom


Frank Kermode has argued that there is a critical connection between genre formation and eschatology in Western literature. This idea has not been thoroughly examined in terms of non-Western world views. My article examines the structure of Wole Soyinka’s A Dance of the Forest in relation to the Yorùbá concept of time and history, which is devoid of apocalyptic overtones. I argue that Yorùbá culture explicitly and directly manipulates history, and that such manipulations lead to a number of paradoxes in the Yorùbá concept of time. It is these paradoxes that Soyinka incorporates into his play in order to resist specific ideological moves on the part of pre-independence Nigerian politicians. The final portion of my argument examines the connection between the political and theatrical, particularly in light of Soyinka’s claim that later Nigerian politicians had the potential to cause the “end of Nigerian history.” Essentially, Soyinka argues for a fluid, inconclusive view of time in which individual human actions have a variety of knowable and inscrutable effects, whereas the politicians claim to have tight control of the reins of time.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.