Wole Soyinka’s Ori Olokun Emprise and Autobiography


In Telling Our Stories: Continuities and Divergences in Black Autobiographies, I suggest that the overwhelming presence of the community is one of the major continuities in Black autobiographies of Africa, the Unites States, and the Caribbean.  This focus on community manifests itself in terms of resistance, solidarity, and inclusiveness in the autobiographies of slaves, creative writers, and political activists.  A new dimension to the superordinate presence of the community in Black autobiography is in terms of diaspora sensibility.  This diaspora consciousness is symbolized in the Orí Olókun treasure that Wole Soyinka foregrounds in You Must Set Forth at Dawn. This paper focuses on the development of Soyinka’s diaspora consciousness in relation to the perceived presence of Orí Olókun in Bahia and his attempt with his colleagues to forcefully repatriate the treasure back to the public domain from where it was removed.  The paper argues that what operates at the background of Soyinka’s group’s project of repatriating Orí Olókun from Brazil to Nigeria is the communal spirit of Yoruba and African nationalism that cuts across colonial geographical boundaries.  The paper considers the role of Soyinka, Yai, Isola, and Abimbola in the attempt to repatriate Orí Olókun back to Nigeria.  Emphasis is also on Soyinka’s narrative strategies and specifically the implications of his autobiographical medium to represent his and his community’s struggle to return what rightly belongs to them back to Nigeria.  How the autobiographical genre develops that umbilical cord that links the Yorubas in Africa and the diaspora through the Ori Olokun episode is also considered.

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