John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo was born in the Western Rivers area of Nigeria in Kiagbodo, Warri Province, on April 6, 1935. His father, Clark Fuludu Bekederemo, was a chief. John attended several local schools, the most important being Government College in Ughelli. In 1954, he spent a year as a clerk in a government office before earning entrance to a college in Ibadan that would subsequently become the University of Ibadan. At the university, he rapidly entered the literary milieu and became editor first of Beacon and later of Horn, student magazines that offered early opportunities for publication to several writers who would become the first generation of Nigerian authors. In 1960, he was graduated with a B.A. in English, worked briefly as information officer with the Ministry of Information at Ibadan, and then was appointed an editorial writer for the Express, a Lagos newspaper. It was this position that permitted his appointment as Parvin Fellow at Princeton during the 1962-1963 academic year. For various reasons, this opportunity occasioned mutual dissatisfaction, and for Clark-Bekederemo, it provided the basis for a rather bad-tempered diary of that year, America, Their America (1964). On his return to Nigeria, he spent a year as Research Fellow at Ibadan and began the field research that produced the Ozidi saga. In 1964, he married a Yoruba woman, Ebun Odutola, a talented actress. They had three children: two daughters, Ebiere and Imoyadue, and a son, Ambekederemo. That same year, he joined the faculty of the University of Lagos and in 1972 was appointed professor of English. The years 1975 and 1976 saw him as Distinguished Fellow at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In 1979, however, he chose to give up an academic career in order to concentrate on writing. He returned to his birthplace at Kiagbodo. He became influential in Nigerian theater, and in 1982, he formed the PEC Repertory in Lagos. After his return to Kiagbodo, he preferred to add his father’s name, Bekederemo, to his own in formal matters, as demonstrated in his collection of plays and poems published in 1991.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo (klahrk beh-keh-deh-REH-moh), also known as John Pepper Clark, has played an important role in the development of Nigerian literature in English through his association with the important art journal Black Orpheus. He took an honors degree in English at Ibadan University, where he established a student poetry magazine called The Horn. After graduation, he became a journalist on the Lagos Daily Express. He undertook research in the Ibadan University Institute for African Studies and was finally appointed a professor of English at the University of Lagos. The decade from 1960 to 1970 saw his most important publications.{$S[A]Clark, John Pepper;Clark-Bekederemo, John Pepper}

As a dramatist, Clark-Bekederemo draws upon local African themes but lends them a greater dramatic impact by incorporating elements of British and Greek classical drama. Song of a Goat (the title clearly refers to the Greek origin of tragedy, “goat song”) depicts the sexual tension which develops when a virile younger brother seduces his frustrated sister-in-law and fathers a child for his impotent elder brother. The complication of the plot derives from African tradition, which, holding childbearing as a necessity, requires that a family member should take the place of the husband to fill the barren womb. Unhappily, the couple does not proceed in formal duty but falls madly and lustfully in love. They enflame the husband’s jealousy to the point where he kills his own brother, to his personal anguish and social shame. The elevated diction of its blank-verse lines adds to the extraordinary power of this widely performed play. The Masquerade continues the plot, as the inevitable public curse that follows from the wicked deed works itself out in the manner of Oedipus’s redemption.

In production, Clark-Bekederemo’s plays have a powerful impact, but there has been African criticism that Clark-Bekederemo has borrowed too freely from international sources and so has diluted what should be essentially African subjects. It may have been this recurrent complaint that...

(The entire section is 871 words.)