Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Role of Ritual in the Yoruba Tribe: A Reaction to the Article by Adebayo Williams

Throughout Adebayo Williams' article, I strove to understand exactly what he meant by the phrase "political unconscious." Does this refer to the ways in which the Yoruba culture operates or is it a deeper meditation on the nature of ritual as a means of defining a culture's political ideals? Within the context of Death and the King's Horseman, there is a definite connection between the ritual, of which Elesin is a part, and the greater political concerns of the tribe. To the Yoruba people, the ritual constitutes the assured rest of the spirit of their fallen king. Elesin is to act as a guide to the king's spirit, allowing him to safely begin his eternal rest in the afterlife. As it is, the ritual demands the Horseman's life in return for a restful conscience for the tribe. Within the spectrum of the tribe itself, the struggle between ritual and politics is one of necessity. The political well-being of the culture depends on the fulfillment of this ritual. Without it, the foundations of their society are challenged. As Williams says: "A political unconscious always coexists uneasily with even the most apparently innocent manifestations of a people's collective consciousness" (Williams, 193). The fact that this ritual is driven by necessity rather than solely by custom suggests a potential for internal, not to mention external, concerns.

Considering the power that is given by the Yoruba people to this most important of ceremonies, the external intrusion by the colonial forces constitutes not only a challenge to their culture, but also to the very well-being of the Yoruba political structure. Such colonial conflict in the context of this play shows the results of a clash between two political consciousnesses. The external force, being the British, embraces the political ideals of life and the perpetuation of freedom. To them, the ritual of the Yoruba tribe cannot be reconciled with what they believe are universal human views of morality. Soyinka, while he may reject the idea of categorizing his play as an overtly colonial text, is still commenting on the political struggles between differing cultures. What one culture may view as an ignorant and pagan practice is, for another culture, the means of setting their minds at ease and allowing their tribe to function normally. The clash of political consciousnesses is inevitable in the colonial setting. When cultures of opposing values and customs come into contact, there is likely to be some manner of dissent or upheaval over the credence of the various practices. Soyinka examines the political consciousness of the Yoruba people from a metaphysical standpoint but nevertheless exposes the inherent issues resulting from the colonial occupation at the hands of the British.

No comments:

Post a Comment