Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora by Paul Carter Harrison

By Paul Carter Harrison

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Beyond this general observation, one may also note how the two forms seem to reflect the character of their respective societies in terms of the degree of Western influence on each society’s indigenous forms of expression. 24 And we know that Nigerian life and religious institutions tended to be more resistant to Western influence! Ironically, however, it seems that events are already beginning to overtake Folk Opera, and perhaps the old myths and legends are not enough now; perhaps Folk Opera will need to address itself more and more to the totality of the present-day Nigerian situation; and we are yet to see how this abundantly rich and popular form will respond to the challenges posed by the rabid materialism that seems to have taken a decisive grip on the vitals of Nigerian society in recent years.

Neither seemed conscious of anything that was occurring, nor did the goat flinch when the papaloi laid his hands upon its horns. Nor did the goat utter any sound as the knife was drawn quickly, deeply, across its throat. But at this instant, as the blood gushed like a fountain into the wooden bowl, the girl, with a shrill, piercing, then strangled bleat of agony, leaped, shuddered, and fell senseless before the altar. . And so the account goes on, almost like fiction! It must be added here for the squeamish, however, that it was the goat that died, not the girl; she was carefully lifted up and carried away unconscious, to be revived by the priests.

Armed with these qualities they can turn almost any drama into a magical experience! And in the modern theatre, who are the priests? Not the directors, nor the stagemanagers with their various crews, nor even the dramatists with their “scripts,” but 34 j. c. de graft the impersonators—the actors in whose power it principally lies to communicate the will, the potency of the goddess to her worshippers, thereby inducing in them that state of deep emotional and intellectual involvement through which alone the theatre can assist the willing spirits that come to it to achieve new strength, calm, and sanity.

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