Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel
Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

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The main purpose of this study was to examine conflict between traditional and western culture in Soyinka’s Lion And The Jewel. One African novel – Lion And The Jewel by Wole Soyinka was analyzed. However, the theoretical model adopted as the theoretical frameworks for this study was Harold Aram Veeser’s New Historicism. It has been discovered that African literature is dominated by various forms of conflict and protest against colonialism and cultural domination and the struggle between accepting or rejecting the white man’s culture and religion. It is worth of note, that the White colonialist dominated East Africa, therefore, this struggle form the conflict found in East and West African literature. Cultural conflict was discussed in this project by analyzing those events that show conflict in the novel which was used as primary source for data collection.



1.1 Background to the study


Protest and conflict appeared as a theme in African Literature due to the presence of the Europeans in Africa. This means that the Europeans came to Africa with their own favoured objectives. Thus, the primary motivation for European institution was economic. Eventually, the overriding economic factor led to the colonization while the notion of educating the African had emanated and enforced by the colonizers so as to enable them to successfully achieve their primary set-goals together with the additional goals which they were aiming at.

Through these, they were able to introduce their government over the blacks. As a result of this, Western culture turned to have dominion over our own land. Majority of Africans were influenced by the Western culture instead of looking into their own cultural heritage. To this end, the Africa had to look for ways to protect, sustain and liberate her culture. This study therefore is to place African culture at its proper place by using the topic, “protest and conflict” as a tool. The cultural conflict is seen on how the European culture is conflicting with the African culture and equally wanted to dominate African land. Protest on the other hand is seen on those African who do not want to adopt the European culture but hold on to the African culture and thereby protesting against the colonial cultures.

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian writer, who explores the cultures and traditions of Yoruba, a Nigerian culture in this play “The Lion and the Jewel”. Soyinka tries to bring out the conflict between the tradition and the western culture. The concept of Post colonialism is clearly depicted in the character of Baroka, whose character represents the attitude of a Lion. The complete play occurs in a single day. Within this short time of period Soyinka explains us how the domination of a single person affects the group of people in the Illunjile village.

He also insisted the character Lakunle, a modernized school teacher who is straight opposite to the character Baroka. Sidi is the central female character, an eighteen years old girl, attracts both traditional Baroka and westernized Lakunle. The main confrontation between North Pole and South Pole exist till the end of the play due to the character Sidi. Sadiku, the first wife of Baroka eagerly involved herself in marrying Sidi. This explains the old tradition of marriage where age difference is not given much importance. In the play there was a various conflict which portrays the colonialism.

This play beholds the themes of oppression, subjugation, domination, lack of identity. Sidi demands for the bride price, Baroka’s continuous marriage, Sadiku’s compulsion over Sidi regarding marriage, village girl’s dance on a lost traveler delivers the culture of tradition. Lakunle’s refusal for bride price and his intention to make an Illunjile village as a civilized one brings out the concept of westerners. Soyinka expressed the complete Nigerian culture and traditions in this play. Sidi’s strong decision on marrying a man, who offers her bride price, extended the conflict throughout the play. He concluded the play with a sarcastic tone by showing that tradition won at last in the decision of Sidi’s approval for her marriage with Baroka.

Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

Wole Soyinka remains unarguably the most influential African writers whose novels dramatize conflict between traditional and western culture in African society. In the same vein, he is one if the best African literary writers who writings portrays the victims of cultural imperialism as a result of European colonial rule. At one time or the other they try to force themselves from colonial cultural imposition while projecting and glorifying traditional cultures.  Consequently, it is on this be drop this study aimed at examining the theme of conflict between traditional and Western culture in Soyinka’s Death and the King Horseman and The Lion ant the Jewel. Therefore, conflict is a disagreement or clash between people, ideas.

 For a long time, Africans in particular, have been subjected to cultural imposition and displacement of western culture. In reaction to the above thinking, Ajayi argues that “if it is true that the Africans had a rich history, culture and civilization, the pertinent question that arises is how the people have preserved their rich cultural past (23)” The implication of this cultural consciousness is that knowledge of this would help debunk the erroneous Eurocentric misconceptions and direct students and researchers’ attention to areas worthy of exploration in modern African drama.  In the same vein, Kehinde Ayo argues that, since literature is culture-bound, advises that emphasis should be placed on the reconstruction of indigenous traditions in works of arts. (301) In other words, the urgent need to embark on cultural reconstruction has become imperative and indispensable. This buttressed Chinweizu’s observation cited in Osuagwu and Affiah that”…African literature is an autonomous entity separate and apart from all other literatures” (4).

  Though, African writers invariably draw their inspiration from indigenous traditions because they are a source of strength for the writers. This informs their creative operations in life. This explains why modern African literature is being undergirded by African traditions. For instance, Chinua Achebe as one of the best African literary icons added that, African writers use many sources, most of which are oral and what is most important is sustaining tradition of the people who can lay claim to about 90 % of such sources.

In furtherance to the above, Okpewho Isidore also has categorized into four the works of contemporary African writers who employ various indigenous traditions. These are: Traditions preserved, Traditions observed, Traditions refined and Traditions revised.

As regard traditions preserved, Okpewho is hereby referring to those African writers who publish collections of traditional oral literatures. Examples of such African writers include J.P. Clark’s The ozidi Saga, which is told in seven nights to dance, music, mime and rituals.   In traditions observed, the writers in this group use the context narrative-audience close relationship “of the oral performance as well as the matter (heroic figure of the oral tale) and the matter (of oral narration) to address moral issues.

The writers that refine traditions lean on African cosmology to dwell on socio-political issues. Soyinka’s Idanre and Other Poems, A Dance of the Forests and The Interpreters are perfect examples in this regard. In the texts, Soyinka uses a mythic character essence, Ogun “the god of iron” to negotiate socio-economic issues.

Traditions revised denotes the art and act of using the manner and Oral Traditions ‘’to negate, to indict the matter of Oral Tradition’’ (109) Therefore, modern African writers are integrating traditions into their works in different ways and intensities. However, they all work towards the same goal-domestication of imported genres in order to rehabilitate the African past, that is, the local ethnic tenets and philosophy, beliefs, attitudes to life and existence of pre-colonial Africa. Ram saran testifies to the validity of the claim that modern African drama has been conditioned by the indigenous traditions of its enabling society. Commenting on why African literature is full of cultural and verbal elements, critic like Nwachukwu-Agbada declares:

 “If it were possible for a piece of Nigerian and African fiction to survive without oral tradition materials, its drama variant could not do without and verbal elements. Apart from the fact that Nigerians know of various dimensions of drama and dramatic enactments long before the writing culture, drama is a performance which is implemented before a live audience and which can only authenticate itself if it is an ‘’elegant imitation’’ of what the theatregoers can identify with”(76).

Modern African playwrights demonstrate the great potentialities of African traditional materials as a revitalizing force in the written literature of the continent. It is on this backdrop that this study seeks to examine conflict between traditional and western culture in Soyinka’s lion and the jewel

Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

1.2 Statement of the problem

 African society is full of cultural conflict, this conflict could be traced during the period of colonialism which the white masters imposes their cultural practices in dominating that of African societies. In the same vein, there is always a serious problem when the culture of European is introduced into the society of Africa whereas the African societies have been living their lives under the influence of their well-define-culture.

Consequently, this make the people of Africa experienced various victims of colonization which has affected African societies till date. Therefore, the above statement forms the research problem under investigation using Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. The incursion of the colonial masters has only brought about culture contact and conflict. This, however, helps in dividing African drama into two types, namely: the indigenous tradition which is sometimes called traditional or indigenous drama, and the acquired tradition, otherwise called literary drama, or the scripted play.

1.3 Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to examine the theme of conflict between traditional and Western culture in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel

1.4 Significance of the study

 This study would help to draw significant attention towards traditional elements as indispensable resources for cultural identity and creativity in not just modern but also contemporary African writers.

 This study will also be of immense significant to students of English and literature and scholars of African literature which would be given the scope within which African literature to be appraised.

 The study would establish the existence of indigenous African drama through the use of African culture, custom, tradition and their carry-over significance in contemporary African drama production, criticism and scholarship.

The study therefore seeks to portray conflict between traditional and Western culture in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.

1.5 Research Methodology

The study will be mainly a library based research. The researcher will use Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel as it primary source, while the secondary sources will focus on internet, library, academic journals and other relevant African literature novels for more information.

1.6 Scope and limitation of the study

 The scope of this research will be limited to Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.

1.7 Objectives of the study

 This study intends to achieve the following objectives:

(1) To portray the theme of conflict between traditional and Western culture in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.

(2) To investigate the causes of conflict between traditional and Western culture in African society and provide solution to the problem.

(3) To investigate the effects of conflict between traditional and western culture as received by the characters in the novels under investigation.

Conflict between Traditional and Western Culture in Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel

1.8 Bio-Data of Wole Soyinka

Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka is known as one of the most decorated African playwrights in the twentieth century. He can be regarded as one of the Africa’s pungent literary artists who has written profusely to sustain the African cultural norms and values. This outstanding Nobel prize winner was born on 13th July, 1934 in Abeokuta, Nigeria Protectorate, now Ogun State, Nigeria.   He studied at the University College in Ibadan (1952-1954) and University of Leeds, UK (1954-1957). He was a professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Ife, Nigeria, now Obafemi Awolowo University. Soyinka’s selected plays include;

Keffi’s Birthday Treat (1954)The Invention (1957)The Swamp Dwellers (1958)A Quality of Violence (1959)The Lion and the Jewel (1959)The Trials of Brother Jero A Dance of the Forests (1960)My Father’s Burden (1960)The Strong Breed (1964)Before the Blackout (1964)Kongi’s Harvest (1964)

1.9 Definition of terms

Traditional: Regarded as tradition which is a belief or behavior passed down within a group of people, society with symbolic meaning and or special significance with origins in their past.

Conflict: Refers to some form of friction, discord arising within a group of people either resisted by or unacceptable to one another.

Western culture: Western culture literary is traditions; the heritage of social norms ethical values, traditional customs, and beliefs of the Europe.