Joseph December 2, 2005 Prof. ?

Critical Essay III

Africa’s Rape The desecration of African land by foreign powers has been the subject of countless books, poems, songs, and other artistic creations. Through all of these representations depicting the tribulations that the African people went through, there is a strong message of the African ways being completely ignored and replaced with a system of rule that introduced customs impossible to integrate into the African Societies. In “Death and the King’s Horseman,” Wole Soyinka depicts the Nigerian struggles that took place in 1946 when the British government “shared” its intelligence with an ancient Yoruban society. Soyinka’s tone in the play illustrates the Arubans dissatisfaction with the British presence. There is also a theme of destruction to the Aruban society and Africa at large. One of the great downfalls in the approach that foreign powers took in entering new territories was their complete disillusion to the customs that the people followed. The customs and belief systems that native people followed, including African natives and the natives that lived in America and most likely all native people that once loved our earth, created the very structure that kept them alive and going. America has its constitution where laws are derived from that attempt to keep society together in a “civilized” way is the same thing as all the various beliefs that the Africans followed to

keep their society together. When the British came and completely disproved their beliefs, the African people did not know what to make of the situation because beliefs they had assumed true for thousands of years were suddenly proved wrong. The British could have shown the people in a different way that they were wrong by establishing a long-term plan where schools composed of British or Western educations mixed with the African traditions could be created. The European nations did not want to help the African people as they claimed, but rape their lands and profit from their resources. There is a scene where Mr. Pilkings and his wife attend a dinner organized by the other British people in the town. It is a costume party and Pilkings and his wife decide to wear the sacred attire that represented death to the Aruban people. Pilkings officer, Amusa, tries to explain the implications of his choice of attire on the Aruban people but he disregards his pleas as a joke. Amusa says, “I beg you, take it off. Is not good for man like you to touch that cloth” (Page 24). Amusa is very concerned with his attire because the attire of death is something that is truly regarded as death. When someone put on the attire they became death in the minds of the Aruban people. Pilkings responds, “I think this little joke has gone far enough hm? Let’s have some sense. You seem to forget that you are a police officer in the service of His Majesty’s Government” (Page 25). Pilkings responds by threatening Amusa. This is a perfect example of the degree to which Pilkings took Amusa’s culture seriously. Pilkings does not care if what he has chosen to wear can possibly corrupt the minds of the people by telling them their beliefs mean nothing. The consequences of such an event and events like this once caused the decay of the African makeup. The influence of the British ways may have not been as effective on the older

generations, but the newer generations had curious minds that naturally sought ways different to everyday life. Soyinka sheds light on this point by sending the son of Elesin to English school. Elunde, Elesin’s son, decide to leave the sacred bond between father and son and venture into foreign land himself to pursue studies to become a doctor. Elesin is deeply disturbed by this because he was not able to raise his son in the ways of his people. When Elesin finds out that his son will leave again to study he says, “Yes it is best. And even if I did not think so, I have lost the father’s place of honour. My voice is broken” (Page 64). Not only are the customs that hold society together destroyed but the bonds that keep family together are broken also. The education that Olunde receives in England becomes of benefit to him. He becomes socially aware and begins to understand why the European nations have conquered the world. He says, “Yet another error into which your people fall. You believe that everything which appears to make sense was learnt from you” (Page 53). Olunde tells Pilkings wife that the European people believe that their understanding of the world was created by them and that all other nations understanding is not comparable. This is the reason that the European nations not only took the resources of Africa but also forced their beliefs onto the people. This can be seen in higher degree in the next scene. It is a sacred custom for the King’s horseman to kill himself thirty days after the King’s death. Elesin is the horseman of the recently dead king and so he must carry-on with the sacred customs to keep the Gods happy and the people protected. When Pilkings finds out what Elesin plans to do, he intervenes by sending Atuma to stop the ritual. When Olunde comes, he comes into contact with Pilkings wife and he disturbs her by his reaction to the scared ritual. Olunde says, “But I knew I had to return home at once so as

to bury my father…He has protection. No on can undertake what he does tonight without the deepest protection the mind can conceive” (Page 52). Olunde does not feel disturbed by his father’s death because his father has protection by the Gods that the people believe in. This is protection that will be granted to him for all of eternity for sacrificing his own life. The people must please the gods to be granted protection and food from the earth. When Elesin is disabled from taking out the sacred customs, the people become deeply disturbed because of his actions. Elesin’s wife says, “Oh you emptied bark that the world once saluted for a pith-laden being, shall I tell you what the gods have claimed?” (Page 70). She warns Elesin of the danger that will befall on him from the gods. The European influence in Arfican lands caused destruction to the soil of Africa. Not only were the lands of Africa stripped from its resources, but the ways of the people that lived in Africa were not paid attention to. This caused destruction to the belief system that had been in place for thousands of years. The Europeans integrated into African society by showing the Africans were wrong in everything they did and they must learn to follow the ways of Europe. The African people did not have a system in place to respond to such an occurrence and were tricked into submission. First Atuma tries to explain the significance of the sacred masks that Pilkings decides to wear to his dinner party, second Olunde breaks the sacred bond of parenthood by leaving his father to pursue studies in England, and third Pilkings causes Elesin to not take his own life because of silly sacred traditions that do not cause the destruction of society if they are broken. These are three different events that summarize Soyinka’s feelings toward the European influence in Africa.