The 'Alarinjo' theatre in Yoruba Nigeria: Fact or fiction?

Eluyefa, Dennis (2020) The 'Alarinjo' theatre in Yoruba Nigeria: Fact or fiction? In: New Direction in African Theatre and Performance. Adonis and Abbey, London. (In Press)

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The first comprehensive scholarly literature about the Yorùbá Theatre was written as a doctoral thesis for the University of Ibadan in 1969 by Adedeji. In this landmark thesis Adedeji establishes the incident that led to the founding of the Yorùbá theatre in the palace of the then Aláàfin in Old Ọ̀yọ́ Katunga in 1826. ‘Alárìnjó theatre’ was an original idea coined by Joel Adedeji in his comprehensive scholarly work. Since then, the Yorùbá theatre has drawn much interest, leading to extensive research among many scholars (Banham, 2004; Barber et al, 1997; Clerk, 1979; Drewal, 1992; Gotrick, 1984; Jeyifo, 1984; Kerr, 1995; Ogunba et al, 1978; Ogunbiyi, 1981; etc.) and making Adedeji’s work a touchstone in the history of the Yorùbá theatre. Although scholars have studied other areas of Yorùbá theatre, some building on Adedeji’s original idea, others working under different terminologies such as Agbégijó theatre (Beier, 1964) and Apidán theatre (Gotrick, 1984) hitherto, only Oyekan Owomoyela (1986) has questioned Adedeji’ account critically. Owomoyela’s article has not attracted huge interest amongst scholars and Adedeji’s Alárìnjó theatre has become the touchstone in the history of the Yorùbá theatre. Adedeji’s terminology, Alárìnjó has almost achieved sacrosanct status, the term appears to have been taken at face value by many scholars including other Yorùbá and African scholars with insufficient critique and evaluation of the appropriateness and origins of Adedeji’s claim. This chapter will revisit the acknowledged sources of Adedeji information, using it to interrogate his account of the history of the Yorùbá theatre as a way of provoking more research and scholarly debate on this theatre and on its past, present and future. This discussion will interrogate the term and concept of Alárìnjó using Yorùbá language structure and experience garnered in the field of Yorùbá theatre research and practice. The aim is not to redefine Nigerian or Yorùbá theatre or drama or even theatre in general, but to refine our understanding of the term and concept of Alárìnjó. Research for the provocation draws on well documented accounts of the history of Yorùbá theatre by Adedeji and some of his acknowledged sources, and secondly, on this writer’s experiences performing with the Ogunde Theatre from 1984-1990 and with the Ondo State (of Nigeria) Arts Council from 1990-1996. To set the context, a brief account of how I encountered the term, Alárìnjó will be useful.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions: School of Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Dennis Eluyefa
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2020 09:02
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2020 09:02

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