Sample Film and Theater Studies Paper on Yoruba land and Wole Soyinka

In Westlake’s book on World theatre, interactions between different cultures are seen as the rationale for the developed of newer cultural versions. A particular case in consideration is the Yoruba culture, as explained through the phenomenon of the masquerade. Westlake (2) describes the planning process and the implementation of the Egungun masquerade in Yoruba land before and after colonialism, and extends the same analogy to the post colonial performances of the same masquerade. The masquerade is described as a phenomenon through which the locals represented their appreciation of ancestors. As shallow as it may seem, the events depicted people’s beliefs of the potential of their ancestors to bless and curse, and focused on the desire to be blessed. Describing the masquerade therefore requires a consideration not only of the meanings associated with the costumes and their objectives but also an examination of the reactions of the audience to the masquerade.

While the description given by Westlake describes the general perception of the masquerade as an essential aspect of culture, it does not exactly represent the feelings and attitudes of the people who practice the culture. Cultural evaluations should always incorporate multiple perspectives of a culture. Westlake’s (2-5) description reflects an exploration that can be viewed to be from an outsider’s perspective. This is different from a description that would be given by say Wole Soyinka, who is part of the culture and understands the intrinsic details of its implementation. For instance, one should be able to understand the consequences of meeting the masquerade face to face. The importance of the masquerade to the people, its frequency and other aspects of practice are all distinct and representative of the people’s beliefs and traditions (Kemi 75). As much as colonialism may have resulted in cultural implications which stay to date, the political intricacies that resulted into those changes are complex.

The first section on Yoruba land and Wole Soyinka and the subsequent section on Death and the King’s Horseman both purpose to communicate regarding the link between culture and politics. The interactions between Nigerians and their colonizers both during and after colonization depict a system of social change through which confusions mar the clarity of tradition. There is a missing link between the colonizer’s cultures and those considered to be conventional in the Yoruba culture. A perfect example is the case of Elesin as described by Westlake (5-6). On the one hand, there is a culture that needs to be fulfilled through ritual suicide while on the other hand there are members of a culture that feel such a phenomenon should not be experienced. The conflicts between the two cultures are an indication of the necessity of cultural integration and the political challenges that mar cultural propagation (Losambe 21).

The most interesting thing about these two sections of the book is that each of them places cultural beliefs central to decision making yet also gives those beliefs the flexibility to change with outside influence. In the African traditional settings, cultures are not to be changed or modified since most of them reflect the spirit of the society. An example of this outcome is seen again in the person of Elesin, who in spite of arguing that the whites provided an unwelcomed intervention, is still blamed for his failure to commit suicide. The views of the villagers are that he lingered in thought of the pleasures and life and thus gave the whites an opportunity to intervene (Westlake 6). Even his son denounces him for failing the culture.

Works Cited

Westlake, E.J. World theatre: the basics 1st Edn. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Kemi, Megbowon Funmilola. Aesthetics of Yoruba culture and religion: an examination of the cultural and religious conflicts in the plays of Wole Soyinka. Master’s Thesis: University of Fort Harre, 2015. Retrieved from

Losambe, Lokangaka. Death, power and cultural translation in Wole Soyinka’s death and the king’s horseman. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 42, no. 1, (2007): 21- 30. Retrieved from

Odom, Glenn A. The end of Nigerian history: Wole Soyinka and Yorùbá historiography. Comparative Drama, vol. 42, no. 2, (2008): 209- 229. Retrieved from