Opera Wonyosi (1977)

Okay, you got me. This is a play, not a history text, but it is packed with historical references. It was written by Nigerian poet and playwright, Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (1934-), better known as Wole Soyinka, who became the first African laureate when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. How's that for history?

African plays are generally hard to come by outside of the continent - hard to observe in person and hard to find in writing. This is a satirical narrative about contemporary corruption in a post-colonial state. Ghaddafi, Idi Amin, Nigerian exiles in Bangui, Central African Republic, all make an appearance in this social critique of modernity and culture in West Africa. The version of the book I have is from 1981 and its preface offers Soyinka's own recap. Rather than repeating what's there, the play is best described by an excerpt from its opening scene:

...I tell you brother, I'm yet to decide whether such a way-out opera should be named after the Beggars, the Army, the Bandits, the Police, the Cash-madams, the Students, the Trade-unionists, the Alhajis and Aljhajas, the Aladura, the Academicas, the Holy Radicals, Holy Patriarchs and Unholy Heresiarchs -- I mean man, in this way-out country everyone acts way out.

If Fela Kuti's "Suffering and Smiling" were made into an Opera, it would closely resemble the 84 pages of song and chorus that leap off of Sonyika's pages.

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