The Sociological Indices Of African Drama (A Study Of Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification Of Area Boy A Lagosian Kaleidoscope And Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats And Sacred Cows)

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

The Sociological Indices Of African Drama (A Study Of Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification Of Area Boy A Lagosian Kaleidoscope And Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats And Sacred Cows)


A persisting tendency in African Drama has remained a careful evaluation and a critical analysis of the African society for the purpose of heralding the cultural virtues and attacking the vices prevalent in the African society for a general social transformation. Drama has been defined as the mimesis of life on stage before a given audience and a replication of the human society on stage. Therefore the purpose of this research is to highlight and discuss in details the sociological elements evident in African Drama. Having drawn analysis from Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope and Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred Cows from the sociological theoretical framework, it is evident that the sensual entertainment evident in African Drama notwithstanding, its ultimate focus is to instruct the audience about the prevalent social realities in the society and inform a radical social transformation.

Chapter One


Aristotle defines drama as the “mimesis of life on stage before a given audience” (Jide Balogun 2010, Lecture Notes on “Studies in Drama”). Shakespeare in his critical evaluation draws an analogy in his definition as he opines that “life is but a stage” (quoted by B.F. Ibrahim and Akande F.F 2000:37). By implication, life is a drama, and all humans are characters, taking actions from God’s ordained-plot structure of the universe. Fromthe literary and academic point of view, drama, which is one of the three genres of literature including prose and poetry, replicates the activities of man through the use of characterization, dialogue, costumes, etc.,presented on a stage in the presence of a given audience. Drama is an imitation of the real world because the characters in action only represent and imitate some preconceived personalities in the real world.

The concept of African Drama implies a type of drama nurtured and developed by Africans, using African’s aesthetics and features for the African audience and the world at large. TheAfrican experience of drama is traceable to the creationof man and other animate phenomena because drama is a replication of man’s daily activities with his fellow man, his immediate environment as well as the unseen world in terms of ritualistic performances. This experience has been extensively argued to have originated form Egypt, Greece and the ancestral worshipof African descents among other sources. Egypt, as the first source of African Drama rests on the notion of her being the origin of civilization coupled with the historical evidence of the Egyptian sacred drama celebration in 2000/BC. The Grecian evidence is associated with the worship of an ancient deity called Thespis. The classical celebration of the great medieval Judeo-Christian myth among others hasalso contributed to the growth and development of the contemporary African Drama.African dramatic practitioners structure their works after the tenets of Tragedy, Comedy, Tragic-comedy, Melodrama and Farce. However, the comic genre has been more closely associated to the African society as the tragic genre was associated with the classical age (JideBalogun 2009, Lecture “Notes on African Drama”).

Sociology, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (6th edition), is the scientific study of the nature and development of the society and social behaviors. Over the years, literary scholars and social analysts have been investigating the society in order to expose the anomalies therein and inform social harmony and political stability among other issues. As time went by, sociology metamorphosed into an approach in the literary field through which writers and critics assess the society using social parameters.

Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope and Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred Cowsare both African comic plays that critically investigate the Nigerian (African) society and attack the excesses of the military leadership of the country. Soyinka, in the playjuxtaposes the military strongholds at the helm of the country’s political affairs as the “area boys”, socialmiscreants,who constitute political nuisances and the masses as the “beatified area boys” who are symbols of emancipation struggling to resist the oppressive tendencies of the military dictators. On the other hand, Olu Obafemi in his play examines the relationship between these military cabals and the masses from the perspective of scapegoats and sacred cows. The military icons constitute the sect of the sacred cows while the masses bear the brunt of ‘scapegoatism’.

These drama pieces painstakingly probe into the social realities evident in the Nigerian society and the African continent at large. Therefore, the thrust of this essay is to identify and analyze some of the sociological indices of African Drama as exemplified in Wole Soyinka’s and Olu Obafemi’s The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope and Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred cows.

Background To The Study

It may be appropriate to do an appraisal of African Drama from the perception of a Moralist, Sociological, Psychological, Formalist, Archetypal or Marxist points of view. Maxwell Adereth (1960) cited by Ibrahim B.F. and Akande F.F. (2000:22) asserts that literature (African Drama) does more than mirror the society; it actively intervenes in order to change the society. Arthur Hallam and Jide Balogun among other scholars have extensively argued and encouraged the relationship between arts society. Niyi Osundare quoted by Jide Balogun (2004:117) supporting this relationship opines that “art shorn of human touch is art for art sake”. Having established this relationship, evaluation of any work of art should always conform to some given social realities; hence the sociological approach remains the most plausible option for the evaluation of African Drama which is a depiction of the existential African realities. In conclusion, our focus in this work, to identify and analyze the indices of African Drama using the sociological approach is not a misappropriation of a literary ideology.

As earlier mentioned, our concern in this essay is to identify and analyze those glaring sociological indices of African Drama as epitomized in the two texts being studied.

Purpose Of Study

The purpose of this research is to revalidate the implication of sociology African Drama. Attention will also be paid to the social, political, economic and the religious issues addressed in African Drama as projected by Soyinka and Obafemi in their works to be studied. We shall equally evaluate how the writers, Wole Soyinka and Olu Obafemi have used the comic features in the play textsto ridicule the African society for the purpose of its positive transformation. Attention will be paid in more practical terms to the didactic essence of African Drama as against the venture of sensual entertainment implied. This research work will equally reconcile how related art, especially African Drama is, to the African society.


It is a well established fact that literature cannot be separated from the society because no writer writes in a vacuum but all writers write within a social context. Hence, the sociology of literature (African Drama) becomes one of the most paramount issues in the Humanities. In this vein, Jide Balogun (2010) has succinctly researched on the “Psycho-Therapeutic Paradox of the Scapegoats in Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred Cows”where he established the relationship between arts and medicine and the concept of ‘scapegoatism’. Femi Dunmade (2006) has also presented a masterpiece on Understanding Wole Soyinka: The Beatification of Area Boy ALagosian Kaleidoscope, In these researches, an apt attention wasnot paid to the sociological indices embedded in these texts. Therefore, this research work will crack these sociological nuts and make this work of great benefit to future researchers in this field and the Humanities in general.

Scope Of Study

This research shall limit its scope to the sociological indices of African Drama using Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope and Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred Cows as data for analysis. The sociological issues to be addressed in this work shall equally be limited to the social, political, religious and economic elements represented in these texts. In view of the broadness of African Drama we shall narrow our analysis to the two texts mentioned above. The choice of these texts is to allow for detailed analysis of issues and for the validationand generalization of research findings.

Organization Of Chapters

This research report shall be organized into four chapters. Chapter one shall introduce us to the research problem, give us a background to the study, discuss the purpose for the study, justify the research work, discuss its scope and delimitation as well as the methodology to be adopted.

Chapter two shall review relevant literature related to this study. Important journals and academic articles as well as theses of scholars in this field shall be critically reviewed and evaluated.

Chapter three shall analyze data from the two primary source texts. Chapter four shall sum-up findings and present a logical conclusion on the research. This chapter shall also acknowledge all relevant scholars cited in all parts of the report.


This research shall be mainly empirical and the data for analysis are Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope and Olu Obafemi’s Scapegoats and Sacred cows. No interviews or questionnaire shall be required in this research. All collected data shall be objectively analyzed. The analysis of these texts shall be from a sociological theory paying apt attention to the Marxist perspective. Analysis shall be based on detailed appraisal those salient social issues.

Biography Of Wole Soyinka

Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka better known as Wole Soyinka was born on the 14th of July 1934 in his hometown Ake, Abeokuta of Ogun State Nigeria. He attended Saint Peter’s Primary School in his home town and spent a year at Abeokuta Grammar School before he proceeded to Government College Ibadan. In 1952, he was admitted into the then University College Ibadan now University of Ibadan where he studied English, History and Greek. He left Ibadan for Leeds University, United Kingdom in 1954 where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts English.

Today, Soyinka is an icon of African literature. His literary accomplishment is legendary being unusually versatile in all the three genres of literature namely drama, prose and poetry. His scholarship in literature was well rewarded in 1986 with the prestigious award of Noble Prize for Literature, making him the first African to win that prize. (The Catholic Beacon, Vol 3. No.7, July 2010)

Soyinka is a multi-dimensional personality, making landmark in various facets of life. Apart from the literary field, he has made a name for himself in the Nigerian political history. He uses literature as a tool for social, economic, religious and political transformation. Soyinka is an erudite scholar, a literary giant, a fearless crusader of peace and justice, a formidable critic of bad governance and an uncompromising foe of military regimes in Nigeria.

Soyinka has an endless list of publications to his credit. His works include the following: The Interpreters, Season of Anomy, Idanre and Other Poems, A Shuttle in the Crypt, Ogun Abibiman, Mandela’s Earth, Ake, Ibadan, Isara, The Jero’s Plays, The Road, A Dance of the Forest, The Swamp Dwellers, A Play of the Giants, Strong Breed and Death and the King’s Horseman.

Biography Of Olu Obafemi

Professor Benjamin Olufemi Obafemi’s a professor of English and dramatic literature in the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He teaches literary criticism, theory and creative writing. He began his teaching career in 1976 as a pioneer staff of the then Department of Modern European languages, University of Ilorin. His glowing academic career is a product of his intellectualism which vision is negotiated through multi-media engagements as a literary and cultural scholar, playwright, poet, novelist and social analyst.

Prof. Obaf, as he is fondly called, had his primary education in Kabba where he was born in 1950. His secondary education was under hazardous circumstances because of the Nigerian Civil War. He graduated from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1975 with a B.A. in English.He obtained his Master’s degree in 1978 from Sheffield University and his Doctorate degree in 1981 from the University of Leeds, both in England.

Obafemi has registered a remarkable dominance in the literary landscape of Nigeria, and Africa. The University of Ilorin, between the 1st and 4th of April 2010, played host to scholars and intellectuals internationally who gathered to celebrate this dramatic icon on his 60th birthday with an International Conference on African Literature and Theatre. Currently, Olu Obafemi is the Director of Research, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. His works include the following: Naira Has No Gender, Suicide Syndrome, Night of a Mystical Beast and Wheels.

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