A Dance of the Forests

by Wole Soyinka

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Student Question

What dramatic techniques does Soyinka use in "A Dance of the Forests"?

Quick answer:

Soyinka uses dramatic techniques such as poetry, music, dance, and masquerade, which are traditionally associated with Yoruba ritual performances. These elements reflect Nigeria's past and future, emphasizing traditional Yoruba folklore and culture. Additionally, the play incorporates animism, presenting nature as full of souls, which highlights West African beliefs in unity amidst diversity and collective memory.

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It is interesting to note that this play was commissioned to celebrate Nigeria's independence in 1960. As a result, the play both seems to look back at Nigeria's past and also to look forward at the kind of future that Soyinka feels Nigeria is facing. Dramatically, key to note is the way that many devices that are traditionally associated with Yoruba ritual performances are intertwined into this play. This is why we cn see poetry, music, dance and masquerade as being very important dramatic devices that are used. Through appealing to such traditional roots, Soyinka makes it clear that he is examining in this play his traditional Yoruba folklore and also looking at Yoruba culture, both in the past and in the future of Nigeria.

Such a focus on traditional Yoruba culture explains the way in which this play presents animism as a commonly held belief. This is the view that souls live in a variety of objects and natural phenomena. A dramatic device that is therefore very important to the play is the idea that nature is full of an array of souls, and this is shown through the Forest Dwellers. This is used to stress the West African belief in a unity in the middle of a massive diversity and it also stresses the Yoruba belief in a from of a memory that is collective.

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