Africanizing Greek Mythology: Femi Osofisan’s Retelling of Euripides’the Trojan Women
Keywords:Osofisan, Yoruba, Greek tragedy, Intertextuality, Lamentation
AbstractNigerian writer Femi Osofisan’s new version of Euripides' The Trojan Women, is an African retelling of the Greek tragedy. In Women of Owu (2004), Osofisan relocates the action of Euripides' classical drama outside the walls of the defeated Kingdom of Owu in nineteenth century Yorubaland, what is now known as Nigeria. In a “Note on the Play’s Genesis”, Osofisan refers to the correspondences between the stories of Owu and Troy. He explains that Women of Owu deals with the Owu War, which started when the allied forces of the southern Yoruba kingdoms Ijebu and Ife, together with recruited mercenaries from Oyo, attacked Owu with the pretext of liberating the flourishing market of Apomu from Owu’s control. When asked to write an adaptation of Euripides’ tragedy, in the season of the Iraqi War, Osofisan thought of the tragic Owu War. The Owu War similarly started over a woman, when Iyunloye, the favourite wife of Ife’s leader Okunade, was captured and given as a wife to one of Owu’s princes. Like Troy, Owu did not surrender easily, for it lasted out a seven-year siege until its defeat. Moreover, the fate of the people of Owu at the hands of the allied forces is similar to that of the people of Troy at the hands of the Greeks: the males were slaughtered and the women enslaved. The play sheds light on the aftermath experiences of war, the defeat and the accompanied agony of the survivors, namely the women of Owu. The aim of this study is to emphasize the play’s similarities to as well as shed light on its differences from the classical Greek text, since the understanding of Osofisan’s African play ought to be informed by the Euripidean source text.
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