Orisa-Shakespeare: A study of Shakespeare Adaptations Inspired by the Yoruba Tradition
This thesis combines creative practice with critical analysis to intervene in the field of post-colonial Shakespeare where, for over a generation, the process of adaptation has been presented as one of the main strategies by which Shakespeare’s ambiguous legacy in successor cultures can be both confronted and manipulated. Scholars often use the term “writing back” to designate a set of adaptations which challenge the cultural capital that Shakespeare privileges. By linking Yoruba spirituality in its political and cultural terms to the wider field of the relation between Africa, African writers and theatre makers and Shakespeare, the thesis proposes a new sub-field or genre of adaptations, “Orisa-Shakespeare,” rooted in Yoruba traditions. The thesis argues that, written in Nigeria and the Yoruba global diaspora, this set of adaptations are not necessarily challenging the Shakespeare canon but addressing their own societies, thus “writing forward.” The thesis examines the cultural and political significance of this bourgeoning body of adaptations of Shakespeare through the lens of Yoruba epistemology and its aesthetic principles. The thesis is broadly divided into two parts: an exegesis of selected adaptations of Shakespeare as case studies of post-colonial works that reflect and integrate Yoruba creative and performative idioms and translate them into dramaturgy; and an original play, Emi Caesar! in which core elements of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar are transplanted into the complex, violent world of Yoruba politics of the mid-19th century, as a parable for contemporary Nigeria politics where factionalism (specifically tribal/ethnic bigotry) works against the integrity and security of the society. In the context that the thesis proposes, the present has constant recourse to the past, especially the ancestors, and engages in rituals which create ongoing, living links between human beings and the realm of the Yoruba Gods (Orisa).The outcomes are the documentation of a uniquely Yoruba theory of literary creativity, a new play based on Julius Caesar, and an original contribution to the broad field of postcolonial (Shakespeare) adaptations scholarship.