Ola Rotimi’s African Theatre: The Development of an Indigenous Aesthetic

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This work is an exploration into the writing, cultural and theatrical aesthetics of African writer and director, Ola Rotimi. It is a quest and search for an authentic African esthetic that has been transformed by at least two centuries of the European colonization. This work focuses on the aesthetic dimensions of the Ori Olokun theatre under the artistic direction of Ola Rotimi. It reviews Ola Rotimi’s vision and impact with the Ori Olokun Company, and his quest to formulate a truly authentic African theatre, void of the imported European sensibility and colonially inherited aesthetic. The unique creative achievement of Rotimi’s work at the Ori Olokun theatre, is that it evolved out of the ivory towers of the University, an ‘unfriendly’ territory as far as the indigenous theatre is concerned. Ola Rotimi dedicated his art to exploring the traditional/indigenous artistic expressions of the Nigeria people at a point when the African aesthetic had completely lost ground to the European value system. Three of Rotimi’s historical plays are analyzed to understand and locate his historical perspective. Rotimi tackles the controversial issue of an appropriate language for the African theatre, an issue that has dominated African theatre for the past half century. His solution is that writers must ‘tamper with the English language to temper it’s Englishness’. Clearly, what makes Rotimi unique, is that he brings to his plays, the linguistic characteristics and nuances that are authentic to African people.


"This work examines the aesthetic dimensions of the Ori Olokun Theatre of Nigeria under the artistic direction of the dramatist Ola Rotimi. Analysis of the cultural, artistic, and social dimensions of the dramatic school indicates a strongly Africa-centered aesthetic in the work of Ola Rotimi ... It reviews the role of Ori Olokun as the only authentic Nigerian theater because it is void of the imported European sensibility and colonially inherited aesthetic ... Rotimi tackles the controversial issue of an appropriate language for the African theater ... Rotimi brings to his plays, and writings, the linguistic characteristics and nuances that are authentic to the African people." – (from theForeword) Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African American Studies, Temple University

"Through this very detailed and pains-taking work, a great anomaly about African theater studies is being corrected by Niyi Coker's book. This study corrects the scandal of focusing ad nauseam on a few personalities and texts in the otherwise very rich and diverse Nigerian theater scene ... Coker examines the development of an Afrocentric aesthetics within the context of an indigenous institution, the Ori Olokun theater. The Africalogical bent of the study is bound to provoke readers. The interpretations proposed will be controversial because it offers new ways of evaluating African performance." – Adeleke Adeeko, Ph.D., Chair of Comparative Literature and Associate Professor of English, University of Colorado

"Niyi Coker has examined the impact of colonization on Theatre in Africa ... Coker utilizes an African centered paradigm in his analysis of not just Theatre in Africa, but in his evaluation of the historical plays of Ola Rotimi ... This work provides a fresh perspective and a new insight into understanding the difficulties and schizophrenia that have plagued Theatre in Africa ... Ola Rotimi has very freely revealed his vision and inspiration ... This work reveals details of the circumstances which led to the formation and founding of the original Ori-Olokun Theatre company. This book is bound to be a treasure and a definitive text for scholars interest in African Theatre." – Professor Alani Nasiru, Department of Creative Arts, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Table of Contents

Foreword by Molefi Kete Asante
Preface Acknowledgments
1. African Aesthetics
2. Language and African Drama
3. Ola Rotimi
4. The Ori Olokum Theater

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