The dramatic and theatrical aesthetics of Izara traditional initiation festival of Amo people of North Central Nigeria
Yamma, Solomon Obidah
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African traditional theatre is caught up within the vortex of Western inferiorization, the need for documentation, and a conflict of opinions between African dramatic scholars (the evolutionists and the relativists). The indigenous festival traditions in Africa have been described by Finnegan (1970) as ‘quasi-dramatic’ and they lack the dramatic structure of the West. This view by evolutionists is against that of the relativists who claim that traditional festivals in Africa are fully dramatic and theatrical and should not be judged strictly by Western canons. The problem is further complicated by the lack of documentation of these festivals resulting in the disappearance of vital aspects of them. African traditional performance modes, as earlier practised by Africans, were affected by imperialistic activities of the West during colonialism and by today’s globalized mediation. These traditional dramatic forms still retain their value and relevance as pointers to the identity of Africa and are a source of artistic production. This study attempts to establish and analyze the dramatic and theatrical aesthetics (elements) in the Izara festival of Amo people of North Central Nigeria. The study employs the analytical binoculars of performance theory, myth/archetypal, as well as the structuralist/semiotic frameworks to describe and analyze the festival. The study has adopted a qualitative research approach for data collection and analysis in communities of Amo in North Central Nigeria. This involved the researcher using interview schedule, focus group discussion (FGD) and observation schedule. Findings of this research confirm the existence of drama which is indigenous to African people, and that is not necessarily the same as that of the West. This is due to Africa’s peculiarity in worldview and the history of evolution of the African people. The study is an addition to the corpus of critical texts on African traditional drama and theatre, and is significant to film makers, ethnographers, anthropologists, sociologists, and historians. It also serves as a reference for further academic research.