AESTHETICS AND LITERARY ELEMENTS IN WEST AFRICAN ORATURE: THE WORKS OF EFUA SUTHERLAND IN FOCUS

ABSTRACT

Over the years, African writers have contributed immensely to the development of aesthetic. Their contributions are made possible by the fact that, cultural aesthetic has become the main source of material for their creative works. Consequently, their works have become a documentation of their cultural aesthetic. There is therefore much evidence to support the assertion that theatre is a very important medium for cultural transformation and development. The study established the fact that colonialism and its effects on African cultural aesthetic is a motivation for Post-Colonial writers such as Efua T. Sutherland. This research sought to identify and analyse the use of cultural aesthetic in Sutherland’s Edufa. The study further examined how relevant these cultural practices are to current society; this then informed which of the practice needed recommendation. Primary data for the study was acquired mainly from the play texts, interviews and a focus group discussion. Additional data was also gathered from published books, online journals and articles among others. Through the analysis of the collected data, the study identified widowhood rites, marriage, extended family, the role of diviners among others as some of the cultural issues discussed within the plays.   

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 BACKGROUND

Cultural aesthetic, in simple terms, can be explained as a particular social, ethnic, or age group patterns of learned and shared behaviors.
It can also be described as the complex whole of collective human beliefs with a structured stage of civilization that can be specific to a nation or time period. At its most basic level, cultural aesthetic can be defined as the ability of human species to absorb and imitate patterned and symbolic ideas that ultimately further their survival (Lomalin and Stempleski 14). 
The above implies that, familial ways are also passed down from generation to generation. Hence, cultural aesthetic is both shared and learned. It is shared because as a family grows, traditional practices are passed down to the new generations and it becomes a routine to that new generation. These practices are learnt through practice and repetition. In current times, some cultural practices and values have been regarded as “primitive” and “uncivilized”. But there are setbacks to this mentality, as some people perceive that cultural aesthetic is a static thing that can be preserved, unchanged by the changing people and times it runs into. It also assumes that people accept at face value and do not wish to change their patterns or ways of life. Similarly, there is a need to view cultural aesthetic as dynamic and constantly changing. There is therefore the need to change the outlook of some cultural practices; especially those that hinder the development of the individual and the society. A pertinent example of this would be Female Genital Mutilation and how it can be looked at, and judged as, violation of human rights. This does not however, diminish one’s appreciation for the ability of the human being to develop Cultural aesthetic (Wolf 12).

Efua Theodora Sutherland was a Ghanaian theatre pioneer, children drama author, and dramatist, whose best-known works include Foriwa (1962), Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewaa (1974). In 1960 Sutherland founded the Drama Studio in Accra, which became part of the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon. Sutherland's plays were often based on African myths and legends, but she was also largely influenced by western plays and playwrights such as Euripides. Efua Theodora Sutherland was born in the former British colony of Gold Coast, specifically the Cape Coast region. After graduating from St. Monica's Training College, she went to England where she studied at Homerton College, Cambridge, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Upon her return to Ghana in 1941, she co-founded the cultural journal Okyeame. Sutherland founded several experimental theatre groups and writers' workshops. In 1948 she opened the Experimental Theatre Players in Accra. Two years later, with funding from Ghana's Art Council and the Rockefeller Foundation in the U.S., it became the Ghana Drama Studio. Her play Edufa (1967) was an adaptation of Euripides's Alcestis. Edufa the hero is a Western-educated modern man, who is obsessed with his own longevity. A diviner tells him that he can avert his death if he can find someone to take his place. Ampoma, his wife, innocently promises that she would die for him. Ampoma accepts her approaching death, and expresses love for Edufa.

1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT

In current times, most African cultural aesthetic are regarded as outmoded and irrelevant. Also, some of these practices are seen as a hindrance to the development of the individual as well as societies. In light of these concerns, there is the need to examine some of these cultural practices so as to determine their place in modern society. For instance, there is the need to investigate the widowhood rites and the use of charms among many others. 
Over the years, various researches have been conducted on how Theatre for Development (TFD) is used to effect changes and how it contributes to the development of communities. There have also been studies that dealt with play texts; focusing on characterizations, themes and theories. However, not much has been done to examine the impact of theatre (plays) on the development of cultural aesthetic. This study therefore intended to unveil the existing relationship between theatre and cultural aesthetic through the study of Edufa. Furthermore, the study observed that, no extensive study has been done on the issue the cleansing rites as expressed by Efua Sutherland in Edufa.
.

1.4 OBJECTIVES

        To find out the cultural practices highlighted by the playwrights.
        To analyze the use of these cultural practices in the plays.
        To investigate which of these practices fit into current societal trends.
        To identify the cultural practices in the plays that need reformation.
        To make recommendations that will help the rebranding of these practices.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The concerns raised above led to questions such as;
What cultural practices are highlighted in the plays?
      How are these cultural practices used in the plays?
      How relevant are these cultural practices to modern societal trend?
      Which of the cultural practices need recommendations?
      How can a research into these plays affect cultural policies?

1.6 JUSTIFICATION

In an era where indigenous cultural aesthetic is fast losing its value, there is a need to re-evaluate the nature and outlook of some African cultural practices. There is also the demand to understand the place of widowhood rites as well as some traditional religious practices in the modern world. This research helped in throwing light on the role of the post-colonial playwright in preserving the African cultural identity through his or her works. This justifies the fact that, theatre is an effective means through which cultural aesthetic can be promoted and advertised. The study also made suggestions to policy makers with regards to changes and measures to be employed in developing cultural aesthetic as well as theatre. Furthermore, the research outlined ways through which cultural aesthetic and theatre can benefit from each other. This research will be made available for future researchers who will like to further explore areas involving theatre and cultural development.  


1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

Due to the limited time within which this research was completed, analysis mainly focused on
Efua Sutherland’s Edufa. This notwithstanding, examples were drawn from other texts when necessary.

1.8  METHODOLOGY


The study focused mostly on the textual analysis of Efua Sutherland’s Edufa. The research also conducted a focus group discussion consisting of randomly selected participants. During the session, the plays were read; the reading was followed by discussions on the cultural content of the plays.  The issues raised at the discussion were recorded and later analysed. Also, there were personal interviews with a traditional chief during which additional data was collected for the research. The study also consulted materials by the playwrights and other scholars about the plays. Furthermore, supplementary data on the background of the playwrights was collected; this was to enable the study determine cultural setting of the plays. The study also gathered data from library materials including books, journals, articles both print and online.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Attribute: 46 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: N3,000  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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