Divide and Conquer

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1. Based on what you've read, what contextual information must your group necessarily communicate to the class in order to help us better understand the theatrical material you plan to discuss.

Yoruban history is based in oral tradition and myth. Its relevance to the people is portrayed through the ritual performances. However, these performances adapt to the changing of times in order to survive. The main elements of rituals are kept, but in order to maintain importance in the culture, they must adapt. Historiography in the sense become difficult. We must remember that the changes are not always noted. Thus we must look at what was kept in the tradition, and what was erased.

Ritual for the Yoruba is based in the theme of a journey. Drewal states, "The journey evokes the reflexive, progressive, transformative experience of ritual participation." The Egungun ritual is a performance ritual in honor of ancestral spirits. It forms a connection with the spiritual world to bring the surreal and unseen into reality.

2. How does your topic express the philosophies, ideologies, political circumstances, and/or social movements occurring in the specific time and place you are investigating?

There is a relationship between politics and ritual performance.

Time is a difficult focus for this topic. Because much of the history is based in oral tradition there is little factual consensus. Instead we are focusing on how and why the Egungun ritual has remained within the context of the Yoruba society.

The ritual portrays the importance of ancestral reverence and a cyclical connection between past, present, and future. It has survived due to its adaptability.

3. Given that you only have 20 minutes to present, what big ideas/contextual elements will you have to leave out?

Because we are focusing on one ritual, we will have to leave out other rituals that are inherent in daily life. In addition, because our topic is non-Western, we must spend adequate time expanding and shaping our Western lens.

1 Comment

Hi all,

This is a good start, but I would like to see you flesh out a few of these areas a bit more thoroughly.

One thing that will be important for question 1 will be to explain - and this can be somewhat brief - who the Yoruba people are and what their basic lifestyle is like. Be sure to sketch out the time period you are tracking (rough estimates if specifics are hard to come by). Also, you talk a lot about how this is ritual performance that puts people in contact with their ancestral spirits, but this is still a little vague. Can you explain what specifically this ritual is designed to do? Are there consequences for improper execution? Does it fulfill a cultural need, or is it purely celebratory? Finally, I think it's great that you'll be talking about the complications of historiography in your presentation; be sure, though, that this does not overshadow your discussion of Yoruban ritual. It's important that you try to tease out the complexities of this performance, and avoid characterizing it purely in terms of difficulty in studying it (I'm not saying this is what it seems like you're doing right now, just listing a potential pitfall).

In question two, I am looking for much more specific answers; for instance, if there is a connection between the ritual and politics, what exactly is it? This will go hand in hand with examining some more of the cultural details of Yoruban people. You allude to the difficulty in discussing time - consider that, as with what we discussed in Sanskrit theatre, different cultures have different concepts of time. You mention that the cyclical connection between past, present, and future exists in the theatre (great observation!); how, then, can you begin to make sense of how Westerners' sense of time differs from the Yoruban, and how might these differences manifest?

In question 3 I'm a little unsure what you mean by "expanding and shaping our Western lens." I think what you're trying to say is that you want to be sure that you're being self-reflexive about how you choose what to leave in and take out. What may seem like important elements to Western theatre artists may be less important in this context. Thus, you might leave out elements that we might instinctively find important in favor of those that are actually important. If that's what you're saying, then that's a good point - can you think of any specific examples where you've done this yet?

You're off to a good start, but now you need to get into the nitty-gritty and find those details that will really give your presentation specificity.


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This page contains a single entry by heitz048 published on November 15, 2012 11:27 AM.

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