Who is the character of Demoke in A Dance of the Forests?
A Dance of the Forests is a play by Wole Soyinka presented at the 1960 Nigerian Independence celebrations. In this work, Soyinka gives a warning to the people of his country that they must not, in the fervor of independence, repeat the injustices and wrongs of the past. He has stated,
History teaches us to beware of the excitation of the liberated and the injustices that often accompany their righteous thirst for justice.
The playwright's admonition takes on the form of an allegorical play, or "dance." This dance is designed by the Forest Father, the supreme judge of all humans and lesser gods in the Yoruba pantheon, in which a procession of highly symbolic characters present their stories.
One such character is Demoke, who symbolizes the influence and potent force of the artist within society. Demoke is a former poet in an ancient court and a carver whose apprentice, Oremole, met a tragic end when he fell (or was pushed) from an araba tree that the two were carving in honor of the celebration for which the play was written. Demoke is called upon to examine his conscience and to come to terms with the reality that he did, in fact, push his apprentice to his death. His remorse brings about his own redemption and ensures a new hope for society.
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