Title: THE GODS AT THE HARVEST
Playwright: PROFESSOR NELSON FASHINA
Publisher: IBADAN CULTURAL STUDIES GROUP
Year of Publication: 1998
Reviewer: Olutayo IRANTIOLA
The Gods at the Harvest is a book that has a great deal of
traditional and cultural infiltration. It is truly an African text in English
because of the fluidity of the language. This discussion is centred on some
cogent dramatic elements in the text.
Although, there is a lot of
controversy about the language of African literature but African literature
written in European languages is African literature. Many attributes converge
to produce a label for a particular brand of literature. The language of the
text is heavily written with Yoruba flavouring, there is hardly a page in which
Yoruba words and sayings are not transliterated and/or translated. Other
elements of the language are incantations, proverbs and objects. This,
therefore, implies that it is difficult to separate the nuances, the cultural
values and norms of the playwright from the text.
Yoruba words such as o ti o! Pg. 13; aso-oke pg. 16; adin,
sigidi pg. 21; esu, aremo pg. 22;
ero pese ni tigbin pg. 24; ose eewo pg. 25; igba aye, modupe o pg. 26; ago
onile pg. 30; langba-langba pg.
39 amongst others.
The text has substantial use of
music which is a form of poetry in Africa, it serves different purposes but it
has rhythm and that makes it delightful to the ears. Without songs and dance,
the drama would have been boring and would not have enlivened the text. Songs
in the text also serves the purpose of prayer and romance.
Every sect has a religion and
each religion has the features of beliefs, rituals and experience. There is a
deep belief in the African mode of worship of the Gbodo people. They had strong
belief in Ogun (the god of iron); their major preoccupations include hunting
and smithing. They also had deep convictions in the calabash called “Igba Aye” and “Igba Orun”. These calabashes disappear at will depending on the
situation. Contrarily, the return of Oguntunde signifies the coming of another
religion which was flavoured with the introduction of school, hospital as part
of their mission.
Another reflection of the
religious beliefs of the people of Gbodo Kingdom is taboos which entrenches the
reality of what must be done when the annual harvest festival draws near. The taboos
one thrusts a pestle into the mortar
one splashes water on the face of the earth
must never open the skirts of his beautiful wives.
Modern African literature has
imbibed many qualities of oral tradition. Many writing is functional in the
sense that the literary creation aims at transforming the society into a more
humane one. The oral content
of the drama is much; this involves incantations,
Yoruba proverbs and sayings which a Yoruba person
would identify immediately on
sighting the word. Also, praise singing which is done for the regal to tell
deeds of their forefathers and the valiant deeds, this was done by Adesuwa, the
Ogboriefon tells his son,
Egunjobi, “You have to learn the rituals and esoteric incantations and songs of
The settings in the text involves
the bush path, narrow colonial road, blacksmith shed, public square and Ogunwale’s compound and other places within the Gbodo community. It is equally
important to mention places used in the book both fictive and factual names
such as Osun Osogbo, River Owena, Erinmo Waterfall on pg. 43; Olumo Rock, Odo
ogun, Idanre hills on pg. 69. Others are Orole rocks, River Gbodo, River Ogbese,
Igbo Iyeye and gbo Odan.
These names and settings are
typically that of the Savannah in Western Nigeria. The language as earlier
shows that the settings are within Yoruba land.
There are elements of contrast in
the text, such as the Igba Aye and Igba Orun. Igba Aye is the royal powers
of the lineage that must not meet the Igba
Orun which is a representation of the terrestrial powers.
Another contrasting element is
African technology and European technology. African technology has made
traditional medicine, guns, carved woods, bead, cloth dyeing, pot making, hair
weaving styles amongst others while Eurporean technology include automobile
engineering, communication technology and road construction as evident in the
Every community has her form of
entertainment Ayo-Olopon was used in
the text to demonstrate how Yorubas relax before the advent of colonialism. The
game was a means of competing, bringing young men together for fun and
subsequently creating the only comic relief in the drama.
There were sideltalks although the
play; it opened the text and also when Oguntunde returned from abroad.
The gods at harvest is a tragic
text wherein pathetic things happened: Egunjobi who was not involved in his
father’s avarice practice paid for it and became maimed. The townspeople who
died during the struggle pg. 48, the death of Ogunwale despite all warnings.
Could this be considered fatalism?
Yoruba people uphold the valiant display
of manhood. Ogunwale went to die in the war because he cannot consider losing
the heir to the throne. He would rather die instead of his son.
However, a critic would find some
questions yet unanswered in the text. These include when Revd Copeland was asking
Oguntunde what he was discussing with his folks. It is written in English and
Revd Copeland was still asking what he was discussing with his people, does
Revd Copeland not understand English? Also, the townspeople called a vehicle,
Motor Car, and this was their first sighting of it, how do they know the name?
Prominent characters in the text
are Ogunwale who represents the re-enactment of tradition; he is an incarnate
of the deity of Ogun. He is lustfully driven towards women and he is impulsive
in nature. Yeye-Ogun is the head of the local midwives and also of the
market-women. She power that can help those who are oppressed. Her support for
the king can be likened to that of Efunsetan Aniwura and Queen Amina of Zauzau.
She upholds the tradition.
Others are Oguntunde represents the
new order that brought civilization as a result of his contact with the
whitemen. He is the early black returnee, interpreter for the colonialist, repatriated
slave and foremost elite. Ogboriefon is the custodian of “Elegbara”, his quest
for power made him maimed. Ogboriefon is actually a nickname for strong people.
Adesewa typifies encouragement at all times. Her romantic fleece with Ogunwale
set in the climax of the text. The farmer is the vocal comrade for the masses;
he is brave, confrontational and has an unwavering personality.
The use of magic is abundant in
the text. The character of the witches, the thunder that struck the ladies on
pg. 14 and the supplication to the witches on pg. 42 all reflect the central
role of the fabulous and mythic in indigenous culture that were once dismissed
by the colonial aesthetic preoccupations.
African texts have the key to remain
indigenous as much as the playwright is knowledgeable of the culture. African
plays remains African because it is an African version of the English language
which can be considered as bilingualism, which has created an identity for
African writers and this, has been done dexterously by Professor Nelson Fasina.