Ude, Chiedozie Orji.
Department of English, UNILAG
Analysis on Matiiku
It is no news that trying to analyse a live performance is a tricky job. This trickiness may be as a result of different factors such as place and time— or more impressive, the complex nature of literature. Notwithstanding this difficulty, this paper will make an attempt to critically analyse the stage play entitled Matiiku. This essay will succinctly summarise the play and its subject matter, making use of factors such as the stage management and the gestures (which some may refer to as body language) of the actors to defend the choice of subject matter. The attention that will be paid to the factors stated above stems from the technical nature of the dialogue — that is, it was, to a very large extent, exclusively performed in the Yoruba language. However, the focus on the gestures and stage management does not in any way downplay the usefulness of the dialogue in this analysis because its importance in making the play fit its setting, and also, its subject matter cannot be overlooked. Also, it is important to note that this essay will include foreign references — that is, events or even books outside the narrative — which will be used support the arguments expressed in this paper. All these will be combined to comprehensively analyse this play.
This segment of the essay will comment on the playwright and the setting of the play. Not much is known about the playwright; hence, we move on to the setting of the play. The play is set during the colonial era, and this is reinforced through the manner in which the stage was set, and the numerous festivities which took place — the market scene; the baby/ritual scene; and the court dispute between the colonial district officer and the people. The latter is unarguably the strongest supporter of the claim that the play is set during the colonial era because it not only captures the communication problems that plagued the colonial masters due to their inability to grasp the local languages employed by their subjects, but also captures the presence of the white man (The district officer); hence, justifying the time setting— that is, the colonial period. The place setting of the play is Lagos. The introduction of three characters at the beginning of the play who represent the three white-cap chiefs of Lagos is testament to this fact. They, unequivocally, strengthen the play’s genre — that is, a historical play.
The subject matter of the play revolves around a man, who was predestined to be king, right from birth. This information was exposed by the narrator, before the start of the play. Hence, one can say that the plot of the play is based on the child, whom the oracle chooses as king. As expected, he becomes the king of Lagos once he attains adulthood; although, the colonial government later wrestled power from him. It is important to state that the fulfillment of the prophecy on the life of the king is a common motif in Yoruba themed plays— that is, the oracle can never be wrong— such as Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame, where the pronouncements of the oracle on the main character comes to pass. Therefore, one can be justified to state that there is a theme of fate (inevitable destiny) in the play. Another thing that is worthwhile to discuss is how the scenes in the play are linked by an interlude of music and dance. These performances (music and dance) may be regarded as entertaining because of the choreographic dance steps employed by the dancers. Being a traditional play, these songs should have deeper meanings, but that is not the focus of this essay. So, this analysis will rate the musical interlude from the standpoint of pleasure and entertainment.
One may describe the stage management as almost impeccable due to the perfect way the stage was set to represent the setting, and also, their flawless deployment of the lighting technique. To me, it is this lighting technique that makes the play stand out. The lights came up when and where necessary, not a second too early or late. Unarguably, the lighting technique was most effective when it was employed to show time — that is, day and night. This topnotch use of this technique is also brought to the fore when the lights were dimmed during the ritual scene. The solemnity and sacredness of the rituals were well captured by the eerily spooky umbrella of semi-darkness. This was enough to make the watcher understand the importance of these rituals. Another important thing I noticed due to the arrangement of the stage is the market scene. The market scene is crucial in traditional plays. The market is known as a place where rumours and stories thrive. Little wonder the birth of the would be king is announced in the market setting. The market scene is also ideal for announcement of the king’s birth because it reinforces Soyinka’s principle in Death and the King’s Horseman of the market place being a strategic location for the meeting of the three realities in Yoruba mythology — that is, the world of the unborn; the world of the living; and the world of the dead. It is important to note that the market place also serves as a link between these realities. Hence, this well believed myth strengthens the writer’s use of the market scene to announce a transition — that is, from the world of the unborn to the world of the living. The stage management was described as almost impeccable at the beginning of the paragraph because it had slight flaws. One of such flaws is the bad sound systems used in the play. Aside this, one can be justified to give the stage management crew an excellent score for a job well done.
Also, the gestures of the actors also enable non speakers of the Yoruba language to have an insight on some of the happenings in the play. The slow pace, with which those who are to make prophecies on the child move, gives insight to the audience that these men must be truly special and of high importance in the society. The greatness which is proclaimed on the baby is evident when the priests and other spectators bow to the child. However, the child’s mother refuses to bow to her child; hence, bringing into play the African belief that expects a child to prostrate himself to his parents, and not the other way round.
In conclusion, if I were asked to give my personal opinion on the play, I would rate it as a largely successful performance. The topnotch techniques employed by the stage management crew played a huge role in this. As a member of the audience who could not fully grasp the dialogues, I was entertained by the dance interlude. Hence, I can boldly describe the play as a successful one. In conclusion, this essay has made an attempt to analyse the production of the play Matiiku.
Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame.
Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman.
What can I say about a girl I loved since I was ten… that I love the way she laughs at me when I commit mistakes, the way she fusses over silly things and even the way she cries over some sad silly late night show…
She was my best friend and I have known her since we were small. She knew all my secrets, which reveals my feelings for her, that I love her not only because she’s pretty and smart but also the way she laughs at everything and the way she sees life and love. I could still remember the first time we met; I was five years old then. It was one windy afternoon having no one to play with except for my best friend, Troy. He and his family just moved out to a neighboring state at transfer because his father got promoted. And so I climbed up our tree house, I saw a moving truck coming down the street. I watched it approaching and noticed a family station wagon following it. It stopped in front of the house and out came a family. I was about to glance away when came out the loveliest girl I’ve ever seen.
She was four years old that time but then even at an early age she was a beauty. She had long curly hair, which reached almost to her waist. She had fair complexion and eyes which could make a man lose his heart into them. I continued to watch her when suddenly she looked up and saw me watching them in the tree house window. I was about to duck when she smiled and waved her hand. I waved back and then watched in amazement as I saw her running towards the tree house. So I went to the edge of the ladder and said, “Would you like to come up?” she answered, “May I?” So I help her climb up and when she reached the top she then turned to me and said, “By the way, my name’s Sam, what’s yours?” I answered, “My name is Christopher but then you can call me Chris.” She smiled and said, “Well I like your name. Hey your tree house’s neat!” then I replied, “Thanks! Troy and I made this. This used to be our hide out. We used to goof around, play ball and go biking together. He was my best friend and I kind of miss him you know.” She smiled and said “I’m here now, we could do things you do with Troy and I could be your new best friend too. I never had a boy for a friend before so it could be exciting to have one. I could learn how to play ball and I have my bicycle so we could go biking together. Now how does that sound to you?” I smiled and said, “Well that sounds good enough.” Then she held her hand and said, “It’s a deal then!”
So that’s how it started. So we became best friends and it was kind of strange at first for she was a girl and there are things which I was little bit hesitant to indulge her like catching frogs, swimming in the lake and climbing trees, but then she tried and did everything just to please me. There was even a time when she fell off the bike trying to catch up with me in a race we had and I was the one who bandaged her scraped knee. I could still remember the time when she hit the window of our neighbor when we were playing baseball and it was I who talked to Mr. Chambers and promised to pay for the damage, which meant having to loose a week’s allowance. I remembered the time when I fell off the tree when I tried to rescue a little kitten because Sam was near to tears when she saw the helpless kitten trapped in a branch. I even fought with the tough guy when they teased Sam and made her cry and I ended up having a black eye and a bruised cheek. I remember Sam crying as she placed an ice bag over the damaged eye and later gave it a get-well kiss. I did everything to please her and gave everything her little heart desires.
The lake was our favorite hang out. We had our Saturday swim routine. We would pack food and later eat them under the big oak tree. There was a special branch in which the two of us could sit together and tell each other’s dreams. She dreams of being a Ballerina and she knows my dream of becoming a doctor. She never laughs at my dreams and pursuits even if they were quite impossible. It made me like her even more.
As years went by, I noticed that my feelings towards her were slowly changing. Somehow, I thought it was just a simple crush case. But when I started thinking about her at night, dreaming of her and having the feeling of wanting to be with her all the time, I thought it was something different, something that made me feel strange, but then it was exhilarating feeling. It made me feel so alive. Whenever our hands touch, I could feel the tingling sensation in my spine. Once when we were at the lake having our Saturday swim routine and as I carried her towards the water edge, I had the feeling of not wanting to let go. I just wanted that moment to continue hoping it would never end. I then realized I was slowly falling in love with my best friend.
Many times I tried to deny the feeling for I was scared to imagine what would happen if ever I’d try to tell her how I feel about her. I was scared because she might think that I’m taking advantage of her and our friendship. I was afraid of losing her so I just kept my feeling hidden.
We reached the age of fifteen and I noticed that Sam grew lovelier each day. How my heart aches wherever I see boys glance her way. I want to punch their noses as I watch them talking to her giving compliments, flowers and chocolates. There were times when I watch her at a distance with mixed feelings of anger and hurt! Because it hurts so much to know that there were so many things I wanted to tell her but then I could not do so. There were so many presents which I long to give her but then I could not for she might see me only as a friend. I was also scared of letting her know how I feel about her as much as losing her.
Then one day, I just learned from a friend that she already had a boyfriend. At first, I tried to convince myself that it was just a rumor. Her boyfriend was Mark, a popular senior, who was the heartthrob of the campus. She, being the cheerleader was close to the basketball team to which Mark was the captain. When I saw them walking together at the parking lot that afternoon, I watched her with my heart slowly breaking into pieces. I saw her wave at me but I just pretended not to see her for I was scared that she might see in my eyes the pain I’m feeling inside because of seeing her with another guy. Those days that followed where the saddest days of my life. How my heart aches when I see her walk by me with him at her side. Every time we meet in hallways and I see him around her, there’s a feeling inside me that makes me want to grab her away from him. How it hurts to see the girl I long possess was now owned by somebody else. That special smile I long for her to cast on me was now casted on him. As she passes by me she doesn’t know that I whisper the words “God how I love you.”
Then one faithful day they broke up. She came too me that evening crying on my shoulder. They had a big fight and it ended up with their break up. Mixed feelings were scaring me inside. I was happy because she was free and maybe I would have the chance of telling her my true feelings for her but then I was feeling so bad because she is crying her heart out just for him. At that time, I was not quite sure of what I wanted to do.
So we found ourselves doing what we did in old days with our Saturday swim routine, spending time in our tree house. We still enjoyed doing childish pranks for we still are both young at heart. So many chances I had for me to confess my feelings for her but still I couldn’t bring myself to her for I was scared of losing her once more. I once lost her, now I could not bear of losing her again by telling her, “I love her”. So I just kept my feelings even if it was bursting to be expressed from my aching heart.
It was a week from our JS Prom, we were seated at the branch of an oak tree drying ourselves after our afternoon swim when she said, “I was wondering Chris if you would like to be my partner?” It just got out of my wits for it was like a dream I never thought would happen. It took me awhile to answer her, “I thought there are so many boys who would die for you to be their partner?” So she turned away and quietly said, “Well I just thought I would like to spend that night with my best friend.” Then she continued in a whisper I could barely hear, “Don’t you want to die just like them to be my partner Chris?” I was too stunned to speak for it came close for me to blurt my feelings for her. We… we’re silent for a while until I finally whispered, “I would be happy to be your partner Sam. “The she smiled and suddenly kissed my cheek. I could hardly contain the joy I felt that time. I saw her turned red and bowed her head. Suddenly she stood up and run towards the water saying, “Last one to reach the water treats to sundae fudge!”I ran slowed up so that I would lose which meant having to have her with me for another three hours or more.
Our Prom night came. I bought a new tuxedo and poured almost the entire bottle of perfume. I went to fetch Sam. Sam’s mother greeted me and I went to sit in the living room waiting for her to come down. I was talking to her father when I heard her say, “How do I look?” I look up and saw her lovelier than ever in a strapless white dress with her hair flowing around her face. I stood up and opened my mouth but found out I could not find my voice. Then I got her hand shakily fastened the corsage around her wrist and whispered, “To the loveliest girl in the whole world.” She then asked, “Is that true?” I nodded and she smiled and I smiled back then I turned to open the door for her. When we arrived at the gymnasium we hardly recognized our classmates. Gone were the jeans and T-shirts. They were replaced with tuxedos and gowns. Then I held out her hand bowed and said, “Would you give me the honor of your first dance?” She laughed and curtseyed. Then I led her to the dance floor. It was like a dream coming true, a moment of enchantment. I was there dancing with the only girl I ever loved. She was smiling up to me, as we were slowly moving in a smooth gliding motion. I found myself lost as I stared down to her sparkling eyes. The curls of her long hair were like waves enhancing her beautiful face. There were so many things I wanted to tell her that moment. I wanted to tell that she was the most beautiful girl that night. I wanted to tell her that she would always be the beacon of light in my darkness, but what I wanted to tell her the most was that I love her. I drew up all my courage and bent to whisper it in her ear but suddenly the music stopped and the magic was gone. I came close to telling her, but still haven’t done it.
We walked towards the table and found ourselves surrounded by friends. I asked her if she wanted a drink, she nodded and so I went to get one. It took me a long time to get one and when I returned to our table, she was gone. I asked her friend, Katie, where she was but she told me that she doesn’t know. So I went to search for her. As I was searching for her, I reached the garden. There I saw two silhouette figures outlined by the moon’s silvery light. They were so close to each other that I could never describe the feeling I had when I recognized the white dress that Sam was wearing that night. I just turned and left the gymnasium.
Since that night, I avoided her. Many times she tried talking to me but I never gave her the chance to do so. I was afraid to hear her say that she loves Mark and not me. I would rather have left in ignorance of her true feelings for me than to hear from those dreaded words and feel my hope crush and my heart break. I didn’t return her calls. I would not see her if she comes into our house. In the hallways, as she approaches I would go to another direction. It also hurts to do those things but then I thought that was the best way to forget her. Those months were tormenting but still I kept my pride.
The day of our graduation came. I was planning to take up medicine at a neighboring state and was to move out the next day. As the program ended, she approached me and handed me a rose. As she stared at me, there was something in her eyes I couldn’t describe. There was sadness in them and when she smiled it wasn’t the same smile she had. I wanted to hug her at that moment, tell her that I love her but then she turned and walked away from me.
So I moved out the next day as I planned. Luckily, I was accepted at the university. I concentrated with my studies but still I think of her at night. I was always wondering if she thinks of me too. I tried hard not to think of her but still I could not stop myself from loving her. Each achievement I have was done for her. I thought that if I will be successful one day, I would be able to tell her that I love her and by that time, I’m worthy of having her.
It was a year after our graduation when I decided to return home and see her again. I thought a year is too much for me not to see her and during the past year I felt like a person lost in the desert and only the sight of her could quench the thirst I have inside. As I got off the plane, I went home directly, desperate to get to her house desperate to see her, to hug her. Then I would tell her that I missed her and that I have loved her for a long time. This time I am determined to let her know my true feelings for her and I could not contain anymore the love I have for her. I reached their house; I saw her elder sister and I approached her. I smiled at her but I noticed she didn’t smile back. I was confused for she used to be a cheerful lady just like my dear Sam. I then asked, “Hi Jen! I guess you’re surprised why I’m here. Well I just want to visit you and I was also hoping to see Sam. I kind of miss her you know. Mmm… by the way have you seen her?” All I saw was sadness in her eyes as she replied quietly “Come follow me.”
I was confused with the way she’s acting but still I followed her. As we were walking, I was trying to indulge her in a conversation but she just answered my question briefly. Then I realized that she was leading me to the direction of the lake. It was still the same as I left it, with the same oak tree, Sam and I used to climb up. I smiled upon remembering the kiss Sam gave me when I agreed to be her partner. It’s been one of the happiest days in my life and I realized that I missed Sam more than I thought. Then Jen stopped walking and pointed to the tree. She then whispered, “There’s Sam.”
I looked at where she was pointing and saw a newly dug tomb with the name of the girl I ever loved. I could not believe at what I saw and desperately tried convincing myself that this is all just a nightmare and I would soon wake up. I stared at Jenny in disbelief with her eyes searching for explanations and she slowly started saying, “It has been a week since she died. She died of Leukemia, but even though she was sick, she never stopped thinking about you. It was even your name she uttered before she died. She asked us to bury her here for she always regards this place as a place of LOVE. She said that this is where she had spent the happiest days and that was when she was with you. By the way, she also asked me to give you this.” She handed me a parcel and with that she left.
I slowly opened the parcel and saw that it contained the dried orchid from the corsage I gave her for our prom. Then at the bottom I saw a letter. It was dated last month. I opened it with shaking hands and started reading……..
I know… by this time you read this letter I’m gone. I just want to tell you that I feel very lucky and thankful to God that I had a friend like you. I would also like you to know that I had left something inside, something I kept from you all these years. I love you Chris, not in a friendly way but as one who would feel like spending the rest of my life with. I have always loved you even from the start. I guess it just bloomed each day that’s why the happiest days of my life was… when you were by my side. You just don’t know how I dreamed of you at night and wake up in the morning and dream no more for you were with me. When you were away, I can’t stop crying because I was afraid to think that you are with another girl. I just can’t bear to see you with another girl. I just want you all to myself. I may sound selfish but that’s how I feel.
Each time, you held me close to you, was like a dream coming true, for to be close to you and feel your heart beating next to mine was like heaven. So many things I did so that you will learn to love me but I NEVER saw a hint. I did everything to please you because I love you so much that I even tried to fool myself that you’re in love with me too. So many nights I’ve cried when I think of myself unloved by you. Well you might think that what I’m saying are lies but, I tell you, my heart speaks the truth for I cannot bear telling a lie to the one I love. I know you might be thinking of Mark; but I just did that to make you jealous, to make you see me as a young woman, capable of loving and not as the little girl you used to play with. Sometimes I imagined that you were jealous and fooled myself that it was a sign that you feel something for me too. When Mark and I broke up and I came crying, I just did that to know… how you would react and with that I’ll know that you love me too. But I failed for you didn’t give me any clue. When our prom night came, you just don’t know how happy I was when you handed me the corsage and saying that I was the loveliest girl in the whole world. While we were dancing, I wanted so desperately to hear you say that you love me too but you NEVER did. When Mark came and pleaded me to give him a second chance, I was scared that you might see us talking. I didn’t want you to get the wrong impression so I told him we would talk in the garden. There I explained to him that it’s you whom I really love.
What happened next was that I found you missing and later learned that you were searching for me, I just concluded that you saw us together. The next day, I tried to explain but then you never gave me a chance to do so. You continuously avoided me and never knew how much pain I’ve experienced that time. I felt the world crushing on me. In our Graduation day, when I approached you, I wanted to tell you… how much I loved you but I decided that I just couldn’t do it. I could not bear to hear that all you feel for me is just brotherly hand of love. For I want you to love me as a woman and not as a girl or playmate. So I just turned away and left.
Now that saying I LOVE YOU might be too late, but still I want you to know that I will always love you and my heart has always been and will be yours alone.
P.S.: Think of me sometimes… and always remember that loving you was the best thing that ever happened in my life.
I felt my tears falling as I folded the letter. I wanted to shout out to let her know that I love her, if not as much, but more than she did for me. I love her more than anything in this world. I knelt touching the soil of her grave and rain started to fall. I continued crying softly and whispered, “Oh God, send my love to heaven.”