Today no one knows where to classify me in terms of an aesthetic. My theater is therefore a vital one; it functions according to the needs of the day. But it rapidly expanded its mission to take on a more social welfare character, catering to the needs of poor or delinquent youth, some of whom were offered residencies to learn skills in the performing arts, costume designing, sculpting, and music making, with a view to improving their chances for gainful self- employment. It became more direct, in contrast to its earlier embedded representation in the symbolic language of myth and ritual.
From a theatrical point of view, the drama of this phase was also notable for its greater use of the techniques of improvisation and collective creation, its systematic creation of texts that were not exclusively spoken, and its embrace of modern audiovisual technology and instruments not just indigenous ones like videos, film clips, electric guitars, and saxophones.
Not insignificantly, and with consequences that will be analyzed later, this drama also became the drama of global audiences thanks to its presentation within the circuits of international world theatre festivals like the Festival International des Francophonies held annually in Limoges, France. For if she abandoned holy drama, this was not because of a disavowal of its aims and principles, but rather because of her realization of the ineffectiveness of its methods and her conviction that its vision could be operationalized differently.
For example, they insisted on impersonating characters rather than on confronting the self within, as she would have wished, believing that performing was a game played for the pleasure of others and, perhaps, for small material rewards instead of an exercise in self-transformation.
In short, they were acting and not worshipping. It is rather the exploration and bringing to light, for actors and audiences alike, of a space of inner truth and spiritual import that exists at a level of knowing that is deeper than that of the rational mind. One such ritual that serves as a model for Les mains veulent dire is the djingo of the Bassa people of Cameroon.
This view of individual illness as social accounts for the psychodramatic character of a healing ceremony like the djingo and its focus on group—as distinct from individual—therapy even when it is the individual who is manifestly ill. To this effect, ritual encourages analysis and reasoning on the part of all the participants. Through techniques of induction the ritual leader enables each participant to proceed backward to the origins of the problem. Hourantier , 60 It is this therapeutic function of the djingo and other rites in its mold that Liking seeks to capture and that she advocates for francophone theatre in a more general sense.
The child lives in a mythical, paradisal time. The negative affect associated with this event is removed from consciousness through different coping mechanisms that include repression and amnesia. For Liking, on the other hand, the fall has nothing to do with a sexual event, but rather everything to do with cultural trauma.
Elaborated by analogy with psychological trauma, cultural trauma is not easily conceptualized. An idea of the difficulties involved in that task can be gained from the essays devoted to the subject in Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity Alexander et al. The theoretical status of an event as trauma resides, of course, outside the scope of this book, and whatever the differences among them, trauma theorists seem to agree on a minimal definition of the phenomenon.
The Protestant Reformation qualifies as a cultural trauma because of the fundamental threat it posed to the integrity of the Catholic worldview. The imposition of Western values on colonial societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provides additional examples. In her psychological reading of it, the colonial encounter constitutes a kind of primal scene for the peoples of Africa, the site of an originary wound equivalent to the castration of a father figure, the etiology of the social neurosis afflicting many of their societies.
That was their ideal. But one day the invader came on horseback and with birds of steel. The ancestor and the image of rebirth disappeared one day and were replaced by the image on the shroud. And this has had repercussions all the way into [their] heads and the[ir] hearts into [their] dreams and [their] genes.
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Imagination has atrophied and the desire for perfection seems unknown from here on. This rupture [first, the slave trade and then colonization] was all the more serious as it was a spiritual one. We lost contact with the divine. For Africa, this led to enormous repercussions. Our objects were emptied of their meaning. But what is less common is the way in which Liking reframes it in existential and psychospiritual terms as opposed to the usual political and economic ones. That violence remains unavailable to its collective consciousness and exists only at the disguised level of existential meaninglessness and the neurotic behavior of many of its citizens.
It is a state of being overdetermined by concrete events in history. While Liking acknowledges the foundational character of the colonial encounter, it would be a misrepresentation of her position to suggest that the encounter was wholly responsible for the social pathologies exhibited by many postcolonial African societies. Her work is nothing if not a sustained attempt to lay bare in the same way that the ritual officiant does in a djingo performance the often unacknowledged dimension of individual and collective responsibility in the crises of the postcolony, even if the distribution of the degrees of responsibility between colonial violence and postcolonial complicity tends to vary from one work to another.
The solution for Liking is certainly not to be found in economic or political reform but first and foremost in psycho-spiritual healing. This she sees as an absolute prerequisite for successful socioeconomic development. The ability to do that is a critical step in understanding the roots of the crisis and thus in gaining mastery over it.
The narrator of Elle sera de jaspe et de corail concludes her diary with this advice to her afflicted community: What we would all need Is a form of initiation capable of alchemy Our societies would once again become initiatory ones The Initiate would once again be The Great-Man who influences. Creates and participates in. We seek your advice. Like a modern psychotherapist, she helps them to track their origins, and thus gain release from their stranglehold.
Who is responsible? Eager for relief from her suffering, the Patient wastes no time in speaking out. But because of her state of mind, she comes across as incoherent. From the statements of both characters and also of the Spokesman , a picture of the Patient emerges: she is a sensitive soul, a keen intelligence who has been driven to psychological breakdown by the social contradictions of her society.
A privileged member of her community, in both material and social terms, she nonetheless experiences acute angst and a sense of void and sterility. The Patient: We handled millions. The Child: Made shady deals. Finally, it is a culturally confused society in which foreign values and religions like Christianity, though widely practiced, remain totally unassimilated and thus alienating, while ancient beliefs have lost all meaning: The Child: When we accepted the rosary, we should have properly integrated and assimilated it, made it part of us and not allow[ed] it an independent existence and personality.
A powerful person has to give them value. Who presides over the fate of the economies of developing countries, if not the developed ones? They control our needs. In this regard, her very choice of an indigenous performance idiom as the model for her theatre, and not the imported dialogue drama of texts, is the enactment at the level of form of the central issue explored in her play, namely, the need for individuals and, by extension, postcolonial nations to reconnect with, and to use their often devalued cultural and other resources as a springboard for, individual creativity and national development.
For unless they retrieve these resources, adapt them to modern circumstances as necessary, and make them the cornerstone of their artistic and development projects, these nations will, like the Patient, continue to suffer from cultural disorientation and dependence on others for a sense of self.
Restoring that broken continuity—the condition of any act of self-directed development personal or collective —is the aim of her theatre. Having said this, Les mains veulent dire does not merely seek to utilize the cathartic and thus restorative functions of healing rituals. It also attempts to recapture their theatricality, which is a constant source of fascination for the playwright. The opening phase combines both a processional and preparatory dimension during which an unspecified number of female and male officiants and three players of sacred drum music take their place in what, for want of a better word, approximates a chancel but without the railings.
An important task of the last of the female officiants to arrive is to cleanse the performance space of malevolent spirits and to invest it with sacredness.
In the third phase, a kind of call to confession, Kadia and her assistant, the Spokesman, invite the celebrants to interrogate their consciences and acknowledge their roles in the degraded state of their community, as it has manifested in the insanity of one of their own. He writes: At the psychological level this mechanism is an obvious one.
It involves both displacement and projection—assigning responsibility and blame on others for unwanted internal and external intrusions, especially if these intrusions evoke the possibility of self-blame or guilt. Who is at fault? Some hated group in our midst. A foreign power? The turning point in this process is reached when one of the women participants, in a symbolic gesture of self-cleansing that becomes contagious, removes her outer garment and tosses it into the fire with the admission that it had too long concealed unspeakable things The fourth and final episode concludes in an atmosphere of the restoration of health to patient and community.
Les mains veulent dire, it is clear, avoids the causal relationship between events in which the movement of the action is based on the rational explanation of the motives of, or the statements made by, characters. Here, the action consists instead of individuals who, under sustained exposure to sensory stimuli, slide in and out of psychological states of ecstasy, rapture, and frenzy. To refer to psychological states is to touch on the most visible trace of the model religious ceremony on which Les mains veulent dire is built.
Their target is the intellect and their aim the promotion of nationalist sentiment. Their techniques of choice are discursive reasoning and demonstration. Alternative works like Les mains veulent dire, on the other hand, depend very little on speech which, when used at all, tends to be poetic, incantatory, and invocative. Their target is the unconscious, and their preferred communicative media are nonrational, that is, symbols, rhythms, fantasy, music, hieratic movements, and so on.
Let us examine a few examples of the way these media are used in the play, beginning with the symbolism of space. It is not just a measurable, physical reality in which people evolve. The north end, for example, is reserved for spirituality, for the gods, symbolized by a mask. The west, with its basket of clothes, represents the subconscious and the need for self-awareness. The south, with its two sticks of wood symbolizing fire, represents purification; and finally the east, with its gourd containing kaolin a symbol of purity , is the place of healing.
Specific actions call for specific areas. Thus, in order to summon her healing powers at various moments of the play, it is to the north that the Priestess turns.
Chronique — Kroniek
Also, in a symbolic demonstration of her purpose, she enters the acting space from the west, the area of obscurity of the unconscious , and then progressively moves eastward, the region of light and healing. Like space, colors also constitute a network of meanings.
The white clothing of the Priestess and the children, according to the stage directions , 17—21 , signifies purity and spirituality; black, the color of the women, represents mourning. The red clothing of the men and the Patient she additionally wraps a piece of black cloth around her head represents life and violence, and the tricolors of the musicians, creativity. Even the musical instruments, of which there are three types—the so-called talking drum, the crier drum, and the sacred drum the nken —acquire a layer of meaning beyond the purely utilitarian.
They function as characters endowed with the power of speech. But it is only one of several such idioms to have been so appropriated. Strictly speaking, this play falls outside the time period considered in this book. Oral epic traditions constitute one of the earliest sources of theatrical creation in francophone Africa. The tone of the narrative is heroic and the qualities exalted, even if by counterexample, are courage, justice, and selfsacrifice. His approach to epic material is more artistic than political or historical.
This is not to suggest that he shows no interest in the historical events in epic narratives. When he does, however, it is not to approach such events as ends in themselves. It is rather to extract from them episodes and characters that make for gripping drama rather than rousing ideological exhortation or historical display. Additionally, he uses the historical material in epics as a mere backdrop against which to engage in a reflection on larger moral and philosophical meanings, and much like Corneille and Racine did with Roman and ancient Greek history to provide majesty and nobility to dramatic action.
In short, epic traditions for Dervain are meant to furnish only the raw materials for the creation of a modern French-language African drama. This view is scarcely brought out by the singer of the tale, whose emphases tend toward the moralistic. In the epic, Saran is a minor character who appears only a third of the way through and is presented basically as a traitor to be reviled. Absent from the play, on the other hand, are the sexist and moralistic overtones of the epic. In the play, not only is Saran the central character, but her subjectivity is elaborately explored and events are viewed from her perspective.
Events unfold from this point on with a tragic inevitability: Today, no one, no power will be able to restrain me. But to highlight this dimension, the playwright effects certain changes in the epic material. Not only does he develop characters and situations more fully, he changes the order of events. In the play, on the other hand, overzealous soldiers are instructed to kill all captives and mistakenly kill her.
The irony of a man who inadvertently orders the death of the woman for whom he has been fighting in part lends a sense of futility to the entire enterprise. A distraught prince poignantly expresses this sense of the absurdity of war: Saran is dead! This campaign has all been in vain. Is this the picture of the rest of my life?
Will they be as futile as this one? In the context of the various conflicts in Africa that Dervain had in mind at the time of the play such as the war of Biafran secession from the Nigerian Federation , war is also shown to be a cause of balkanization and weakness that can only lead to foreign intervention: Oh Africa, Oh Fatherland, Oh Bambara Kingdoms! In how many years, towards which balkanization, towards which catastrophe are all these little wars by little rulers leading us? He invites the latter to peace talks.
The meeting takes place, but Da Monzon refuses to lift his ultimatum. Douga requests a three-day period of reflection in the hope that mature counsel will prevail, and this is granted. He then asks for a further seven-day delay, and this is also accepted. It seems war can be averted, the inevitable avoided. In the end, however, the Bambara war can no more than the Trojan war be avoided.
What both plays bring out is a sense of tragic inevitability, the idea that men and their passions are only a conduit through which an evil destiny insinuates itself into human affairs and wreaks havoc on them. I found myself caught up in this affair in spite of myself. Whether I only served as an excuse is but of momentary importance. The threads of the tragedy have been wound.
The die was cast long ago. We can now only let the wind of disaster howl past. So far, we have seen how Dervain modeled his dramatic practice on a certain reading of the French tradition, even echoing elements of a specific French play in his own. But unlike the French dramatists to whom he makes explicit or covert references, he does more than just exploit the thematic and affective resources offered by the epic. He also attempts to transform into literary drama its formal characteristics, including its performance dimension. In short, he tries to textualize epic orality, an effort that accounts for the experimental nature of the play and its formal self-consciousness.
An inspired instance of such an effort in addition to the prologue, in which the events to be dramatized are first narrated to the accompaniment of an ngoni string instrument is act 1, scene His interest is not merely in re-citing, in writing a sequence of events known to the entire community in the manner of his oral counterpart. It is in providing a unique response to, a personal interpretation of, those events, bringing out their implicit significance.
Such an interest means, of course, developing the text of the play its characters, language, structure, symbolism, dramatic devices in a way that is not given to the oral narrator, whose originality lies mainly in his manner of performance of a preexisting text. This leads inevitably to making literature out of the oral version.
The plots run parallel to each other, with an uncertain outcome built into each of them. How then does the dramatist link the two actions into a coherent whole? At this point, no indication is given that a Nana Triban will come his way.
Douga himself, however, ironically provides the occasion for this to happen. In his anxiety to avoid war, he commits the fatal error of inviting Da Monzon to his court, thus providing Saran with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of him. But just when the reader feels that one of the plots will have a successful outcome, a new twist is introduced that leads to the destruction psychological in the case of Da Monzon of all the parties in the drama.
In short. As a celebrated figure of society, the hero naturally provokes destructive envy and enmity. His rivals and foes resort to multiple stratagems to destroy him, including disguises as wild and dangerous animals. He, in turn, enjoys the magical protection of his mother, who always manages to materialize with victoryenabling potions at crucial moments in his struggles. The reference here to supernaturalism identifies an important feature of didiga art, namely, its fantastical and fabulous character.
Endowed with human characteristics, Zaourou explains, this instrument displays mood swings. It is particularly susceptible to envy, admits of no competition from lesser instruments, and jealously demands the total attention of the audience. It carries first and last names, and like a stage actor it engages in dialogue with the narrator. To say this, however, is not to imply— and he is emphatic on this point—that Zaourou submits slavishly to the didiga, documenting it in ethnological fashion and mechanically transposing it to the stage.
As the artistic director and producer of the Didiga Troupe, he has clearly outlined the guiding principles: To seek inspiration from tradition rather than imposing it on contemporary society. To understand that artistic creation is not an ethno-sociological activity, and to show proof of initiative in concrete ways—a quality without which there can be neither art nor creator.
To avoid being prisoner of an ancient ideology served by our ancient arts. The challenge, as he sees it, is to create works that are not held in thrall to tradition and yet are tethered to it in important ways. La guerre des femmes is one of his experiments in this direction, and the play derives from the didiga in a number of important ways. The first is in its conception of the protagonist and her career.
A woman of courage and determination, she is also assisted in her fight, like Djergbeugbeu of the hunter tales, by her mother, or more accurately in her case, by the mythical mother of all women, Mamy Wata. A water spirit widely known in many coastal West and Central African cultures Drewal , she is depicted in popular paintings and lore as occasionally seated on a marine rock combing her long flowing hair.
When Scheherazade appeals for help, Mamy Wata magically responds and provides her with a life-saving stratagem. The action also constantly moves between mythical and historical time. But while La guerre des femmes is continuous with an ancient narrative art in significant ways, that art form does not exhaust its sources. Just as Zaourou refuses to be limited by strict fidelity to indigenous idioms, so he refuses to restrict his artistic sources to African folk traditions.
The outer, framing tale in this collection narrates, it will be recalled, the story of a sultan named Shariar who, as revenge for the deceit and sexual infidelities of his wife, declares what amounts to a murderous war on all women. He decides to take a new bride everyday, and to have her killed after spending the night with her. Her ploy is to narrate a tale for him every evening for a thousand nights. She will, however, make sure to always break it off at dawn, at a point sufficiently suspenseful for the king to want more and thus postpone her execution.
Fedwa Malti-Douglas has transposed this narrative strategy into the terrain of sexuality in the Arab Islamic context and compared it to the process of arousing and sustaining sexual desire in a partner while continuously deferring its consummation. It is this storytelling device that Zaourou borrows for his version of Scheherazade. But these and many other modifications are deliberate. But perhaps the most significant modification in La guerre des femmes lies in its enframed stories. Situated in primordial time, the myth tells of an age when men and women lived essentially separate lives, in complete ignorance of each other.
This golden age comes to an end when a male hunter accidentally discovers the existence of what turns out, to his astonishment, to be a new and beautiful species of humanity. Rumor of its existence quickly spreads in the male settlement. The women remain invincible, but then Zouzou is accidentally captured. As a result, she goes into exile and transmutes into the water spirit, Mamy Wata, while they sue for peace.
The mutual discovery of the pleasures of sex come next, and soon the warring parties are married. My duty, as I see it, is to state things as they are, unvarnished. Also, by structurally containing or embedding the legend—which belongs to an oral storytelling performance tradition—within a modern theatre form, he not only establishes continuity between the two performance modes. He also gives a concrete example of how the former can fruitfully be adapted and textualized to form the basis of a modern, scripted, francophone drama.
In other words, the action of the play begins in the world of identifiable historical time twentiethcentury urban Africa , plunges shortly thereafter into the fabulous and atemporal world of legend, and reemerges months later at its original point of departure. Although there is a return to the social world, it is a return with a difference. The innocent initiate has now been reborn a wise, reflective initiate. We will later consider the issue of this mature wisdom. For now, however, we should return to the core movement or mythic section of the play, the one encased between the first and last sections of La guerre des femmes.
This section itself is in two distinct but interrelated parts. The first tableaux I—V , the outer framing tale, functions as a scene of exposition that introduces the two sets of protagonists—the sultan Shariar and his vizier, on the one hand, and Scheherazade and her protector, Mamy Wata, on the other—and provides the information necessary for an understanding of the play.
The second part, and the main substance of the play itself, is the enframed or inner tale that Scheherazade finally persuades the sultan to listen to. Here, the action alternates between narration and dramatization. The narrator of the tale, who also functions as its stage director and producer, is in fact Scheherazade, and her internal audience of one is the sultan. Worse, the princess has by now aroused his sexualized narrative desire so intensely—always holding out the pleasurable promise of its satisfaction, but never actually fulfilling it—that she feels secure enough to begin to manipulate him.
Through irony and sarcasm, she is able to turn virtually all his reactions and arguments against him. Thus, when he excoriates Zouzou for being a traitor to male potency, she uses that same unfair observation as proof of male treachery, a trait he hitherto saw as purely female. Watch it! You said what? Are you telling me a story or judging me?
But Scheherazade is not impressed. Ah, yes! Marriage has become a chronic illness. This remark is immediately followed by two examples of what Scheherazade sees as institutionalized inequality: a civil wedding ceremony in which the marriage vows stipulate the submission of wife to husband 60 , and its religious equivalent, where the very topical issue of the ordination of women into the Catholic priesthood is raised through the officiating clergy, a self-ordained Roman Catholic woman priest Long before the ceremonies described above, he explains to the narrator how the beautiful Souad had betrayed him , This understanding is followed, after those ceremonies, by what can only be termed a moment of epiphany and a plea for forgiveness: I beg you Scheherazade.
You see, you arrived and the day shone like a ray in the abyss of my despair. Everything, everything! Including all the couples in your kingdom. It is not the least of the ironies in this play that the ruse and cunning of which the lecturer jokingly accuses women in the opening tableau labeled tableau 0 , and which Shariar levies against her with deadly consequences, is confirmed in the narrative exploits of Scheherazade. He might still think her his captive witness his occasional threats , but he has long since become hers.
Like the Arabia of legend, the modern African postcolony has its fair share of rulers whose exercise of power is as arbitrary and deadly as that of any sultan, and countries are held captive like Scheherazade and the women of Arabia to their whims. In the same way that Scheherazade is able through narrative art to lead her tyrant to a mature understanding of the roots of the conflict between the sexes, of which he is both victim and dangerous accomplice, so too can the writer in modern African societies seek to educate and humanize arbitrary power by speaking truth to it.
Of course, not all writers are as adept or as successful as Scheherazade, and storytelling itself in Africa has proved to be a dangerous activity: many writers have been jailed and persecuted in postcolonial times. For Zaourou, the Arabian princess, and her African successor, this is a risk worth taking. Among the themes that are more elaborately developed in his later work are those of domination and resistance, cultural Otherness and imperializing universalism, urban development and ecological degradation, and, not least, the dialectic of speech orality and writing literacy.
For now, let us briefly consider the key issue explored in the play, namely, the colonial encounter. Where, of course, Chamoiseau departs from that drama is both in the form and language in which he allegorizes the encounter and in the characters he uses to embody it. But while Chamoiseau breaks with the nationalist tradition of Caribbean playwriting in terms of form, the nature of characters, and language, he does not in terms of the spirit and temper that animate his play.
In this respect, she is not the typical hero of Caribbean folktales who hustles his way in life through wit and cunning and is solely preoccupied with his own survival. Because he operates within the terrain of the enemy, he is reduced to acting by indirection, relying on little smart moves rather than on a grand strategy. Both texts, of course, stage rebellious figures whose resentment of the colonial order is only matched by their radical desire to overthrow it, and the action of their characters is sustained and not improvisational, part of the collective struggle of a preconstituted community whose existence predates the arrival of that order.
But perhaps the strongest parallel between the works is in their representation of the colonial enterprise as an unsustainable model concerned with the exercise of power and the pursuit of economic gain. Carabosse, the symbol of this enterprise, is in this respect aligned not just with dukes and courtiers like Prospero and Gonzalo, but also with the lowly, antimonarchist, republican mariners Stephano and Trinculo.
Its language is magisterial monologue. Speech promotes dialogue and thus life. Dissect the leaves Systematically survey everything. Although a little hasty, this judgment is not totally inaccurate. Manman Dlo: We must remain pure in this forest which is deteriorating. In other words, she risks becoming a physical and, no doubt, a cultural monstrosity. All the while remaining my daughter. Where the play unambiguously belongs to the latter period, however, is in its form, which is largely derived from the oral folktale genre.
It is to a consideration of its appropriation in the play that the rest of this chapter will be devoted. In other words, it is a question of creating a new artistic product that carries the imprint of an individual talent. He writes: The question, in point of fact, is not to move from orality to writing as one would from one country to another; it is to envisage an artistic creation that is capable of mobilizing the totality that is given to us. The former genre seeks inspiration from the folktale and is not bound by it, whereas the latter is the mere transposition of the tale onto the modern stage.
But, perhaps, the most central element that he uses as a basis for his play is the figure of the storyteller, the conteur. Traditionally a narrator and an actor, the conteur presents events and characters but also embodies those characters and dramatizes their roles. He becomes part of the action only once, when he decides to play the role of Papa Zombi, who happens to be absent when Manman Dlo calls on him in his forest abode for assistance against the invader Carabosse , 84— Reference to musical interludes brings us to an important function that the conteur appropriates in the play, that of host or presenter.
In this capacity, he does not merely narrate events to a passive audience but interacts with the latter and elicits its participation. The second level is between the conteur and his audience, which consists mostly of children ti-manmaye and a few adults gwan mounes. But the conteur also resorts to other techniques. But beyond his immediate circle of spectators, the storyteller also elicits the active participation of his invisible audience of readers whose verdict, on the charge against him of betraying orality by putting it down on paper, he solicits.
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Among the narrative, as opposed to performance, techniques that the storyteller borrows from the folktale is the use of multiple voices. While the conteur is witness to most of the events in his tale, and therefore is their principal narrative voice, his narrative is sometimes the product of multiple perspectives. Who reported it to me He got it from Golette-the-bamboo. One final quality worth mentioning about the Creole folktale as appropriated by Chamoiseau is its non-illusionism. The narrator continuously reminds his audience of the conventions of the genre that regulate his performance.
As was observed earlier, Chamoiseau seeks as much to root his theatre in indigenous practices as to recreate them in the light of contemporary realities. Besides his recourse to writing, the transformation that most stands out relates to his recontextualization of the folktale for the modern stage. But because these performances rely almost exclusively on language and are enacted on a bare stage with few props and no setting, the spectacle they evoke is a matter for the imagination rather than the eyes.
In the stage directions for the Carabosse—Papa Zombi encounter 97 , for example, bright flashes of red and white light and an explosion of fireworks against a background of rolling thunder signal that Carabosse is on the attack, and possibly on the ascendancy. In this instance, light and fire are her instruments of war, whereas a head-splitting din of drum music, which Papa Zombi can command at will, as he can violet light from the moon, serves as an indication that he is enjoying military success at that specific time.
Although Stephenson has not received the kind of critical attention his Guadeloupean and Martinican counterparts have, he is widely considered to be an important poet and playwright Favre French, on the other hand, is the language of power and officialdom appropriately represented by a nameless official known only by his title, the mayor.
He speaks to his constituents exclusively in French, even when they occasionally address him in Creole. For him to do otherwise would be to bridge the social gap between him and them, a gap he has every interest in maintaining. His relationship with his constituents, in other words, is strictly hierarchical. But the superior social values that attach to French are not just the privilege of figures of authority.
They are so much a part of the unconscious of the wider community that even Frederic and Fanny, the apostles of cultural autonomy, ironically find themselves especially Fanny unreflexively switching from Creole to French in the belief that it is a more refined medium of communication between man and woman, and one particularly suited to the expression of love: Frederic: I wonder why we always speak to a woman in French as if to do so in Creole were a sign of impoliteness.
Frederic: Admit that we are a hundred percent assimilated. Stephenson , 47 Of course, as their love for each other and their commitment to social change deepen, the incidence of French in their conversations correspondingly lessens even if it does not entirely disappear. The play, it should be recalled, was written in , the period of independentist agitation in the francophone Caribbean. The Guyanese critic Biringanine Ndagano advances two reasons to explain this movement.
Second, and perhaps even more important, was the economic development plan later abandoned , which provided for the massive resettlement of French metropolitan and other Latin American nationals in Guyana. These measures galvanized the articulate section of the local population the entire population at the time was estimated at , , which felt threatened and in danger of even greater marginalization in their own country.
O Mayouri can thus be seen as a theatrical manifestation of the spirit of this era. The same, however, cannot be said for Guyana, where the major population groupings—whites, Creoles, Amerindians, and the so-called Africans or, in Guyanese Creole, bushinenge Maroons who sought refuge from slavery deep in the forest —lead separate existences in their self-enclosed communities and where the idea of a common culture is virtually nonexistent. However, these similarities between O Mayouri and Manman Dlo should not obscure fundamental differences between the two plays.
Although he does not minimize the importance of the latter, they are more Antillean than Guyanese for him and certainly of less critical importance to his territory than such socioeconomic problems as youth unemployment, massive emigration to France, economic stagnation, and dependency, subjects that he explores in his plays. On the contrary, and this may not be unexpected for the economist Stephenson, it is only by addressing these problems and thus creating a supporting material infrastructure for the practice of its arts, culture, and language that Creole culture can regain the vitality and function it enjoyed during slavery as an instrument of resistance To do otherwise would be to indulge in pure Creole folklorizing.
The desire to avoid such a pitfall explains the difference between Manman Dlo and O Mayouri in terms of form. O Mayouri, on the other hand, is realist drama. Although it uses rural Creole art forms, these do not structure the play but rather constitute interludes in a development that derives strictly from dialogue drama.
Its language is consistently secular, instrumental, and prosaic, and the world it evokes is not the enchanted universe of fairies nor the animal world of folktales. It rather addresses a rural, Creole Guyanese audience, which is invited to cast a critical look at its attitudes and beliefs and urged to find solutions to its plight. In other words, O Mayouri draws on elements of Creole performance culture not to celebrate them as ends in themselves that would be to indulge in the culturalism of Chamoiseau , but instead to instrumentalize them in the service of social and economic development.
With modernization, the decline of peasant agriculture, and the concomitant exodus of farmers to the city, the mayouri has all but disappeared in Guyana. But it is this event, conceived both as social performance and as metaphor, that gives its title to, and is celebrated in, the play. The social values, such as group solidarity and mutual help, are the central objectives of the event. O Mayouri revolves around multiple sets of characters, each of which represents a specific world view.
Although Gaga resolutely rejects this attitude, even rebelling against the idea of a beneficent God, his rebellion remains mostly rhetorical, never translating into acts of personal or collective empowerment. In contrast to the fatalistic attitude of his parents, Frederic is convinced of the possibility of effecting social change. Life will again be beautiful. Stephenson , 49—53 Frederic eschews institutional political action, which he sees as the realm of the corrupt, and in any case as ineffectual for his community in the absence of a unified social movement and collective organization at the grassroots level, of which such action is the expression.
This view explains his focus on the mayouri, whose spirit and values he wishes to revive and reinscribe in the minds of the population. I must watch over the interests of my constituents. Analyses of the conflict between Frederic and the mayor are often presented as one between noble idealism and vengeful selfishness. One could also extend this analysis to Frederic, who encourages the peasants to self-organize and to rely on their collective force, but he never ceases to adopt and play the role of organizer in their affairs.
Having spent a decade in France and having fought in Algeria, he sees himself as uniquely positioned to lead his benighted people to the secular salvation of material independence. Although self-serving, accusations that Frederic wants to direct everyone are not inaccurate. Frederic does not get to the point of authoritarianism since he is destroyed before his revolution is complete. This makes their intervention in politics, essentially as a manifestation of interclass conflict and intense hostility toward a ruling elite civilian and professional military whose enrichment they perceive as having occurred at their expense, qualitatively different from earlier interventions by the officer classes, for whom the usurpation of power was the expression of intra-ethnopolitical elite competition and conflicts.
Their exercise of power, when they erupt into politics, is not in the service of any coherent agenda as is the case, at least rhetorically, for the professional soldiery and disintegrates into pure violence. Corporal Nnikon Nniku is brought to power and quickly proclaims himself field marshal in Mutulufwa, military titles are kept in a basket and literally handed out like candies , but shortly thereafter he is overthrown by another member of the Mutulufwa militariat, Private Sheshe, a man with the unfortunate habit of urinating on himself when under pressure!
Although specific references to various well-known symbols of political leadership panther-skin caps and leopard-spotted battle fatigues anchor the play in the Central and East African region of the continent, the immediate geographic and sociopolitical frame of reference is transcended in order to embody postcolonial civilian or professional military dictatorships. Enforcing state power seldom serves the interests of the militariat as a substratum but it nonetheless draws its personnel closer to the corridors of power. The violent usurpation of the power they are routinely called upon to enforce occurs largely in response to bad governance and the degeneracy of the political classes.
And our bosses have stuffed their pockets as much as they have stuffed our brains with trash. Mheme: Calm down. Sheshe: We obey and obey, do nothing but obey! We play at being galley wardens, that is when we are not sent off to fight their wars. We applied ourselves to deepening our poverty, making it ever more severe. Our per capita income, when we came to power, was close to that of the less rich of the richer nations. Today, our GNP is declining to zero. Its new mission is to hold them captive and prey on them it is surely no coincidence that the play opens and closes with a prison scene.
We have it. Corporal Nnikon Nniku seized it for us. Both plays feature usurping rulers who kill their predecessors and establish grim tyrannies characterized by mutilation and punishment. Likewise, they not only provoke civil strife but are also ultimately toppled. This shared idiom is the grotesque or, more precisely, the satirical grotesque with its indulgence in verbal bingeing, scatological humor, and riotous laughter. In other words, the satirical grotesque does not so much invent a monstrous and extravagant reality as disapproving theorists of classicism and realism claim as bring out, like caricature, the monstrous and extravagant in reality.
It is a realism for a new age, for an age in which, like in many contemporary francophone African sociopolitical formations, the real has become so unnatural, so dreamlike that it can only be adequately apprehended by means of an aesthetics of the unnatural and the absurd, in short by the satirical grotesque. The dissolution of the natural into the monstrous is what accounts for the feelings of horror provoked by this aesthetic category. But horror is only one pole of the reaction, alongside laughter. The phonic qualities of Ubu in the name Nniku are worth highlighting, given that both names not only rhyme, they also link their bearers with their respective culs Beaumont , Both Ubu and Nnikon Nniku are inextricably connected with toilets.
The latter recommends the most hideous and improbable of measures to Nnikon Nniku, measures ostensibly designed to secure his power, but in reality calculated to humiliate him and foment opposition to his rule. It is rather the demagogic use of these phenomena made by rulers intent on obscuring leadership failures, class inequalities, and foreign domination to which he objects. Paulin Hountondji cogently makes this point in his observations on the exaltation of black cultures by cultural nationalists, and he gives the example of Senghor: Hypertrophy of cultural nationalism serves to compensate for the hypotrophy of political nationalism.
Worse still, these cultural problems are themselves strangely simplified as culture is reduced to folklore, its most obvious and superficial aspect. Also, the ceremonial masks used in the proceedings are dabbed with body fluids, including, of course, semen. A global resonance is accorded to the play and to the central issue of dictatorship given that, much like other strong-armed rulers who have their Red Book Mao in China or Green Book Khadafi in Libya , Nnikon Nniku has his own Grey Book.
Bien que je porte de beaux habits, je ne suis pas un homme riche. Mais je vais t'orienter vers une personne qui va t'aider. Alors, Il me dit : ne pars pas, reste la, tu sauras la suite! Assis, calme, Il me demande : Mar qu'est ce qui se passe? Elle humilie un homme libre! Revenu, Il me tend une enveloppe et me dit : tiens! Tu peux acheter de l'essence! A ma sortie de la maison, quand j'ai ouvert l'enveloppe, alors j'ai vu qu'il avait mis dedans 2 millions de francs cfa. C'est ainsi qu'il me remet une enveloppe et me dit : c'est 30 millions francs cfa.
Tu peux payer la banque. Can Senegal. Je vous raconterais de belles choses. Mais en attenda Jump to. Sections of this page. Accessibility Help.