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Death and the King’s Horseman global history essay help

Death and the King’s Horseman

Based on the guidelines given by Bernhard Dernburg guidelines on effective maintenance of African colonies, it is true to say that the British in Nigeria failed. In his speech, Dernburg points out that the Africans should be allowed to maintain their organization culture and characters for as long as it did not jeopardize the maintenance of the colony[1]. Soyinka’s play opens up with the illustration of one of the cultures that the Yoruba from Nigeria honoured as a tradition. Their king dies, and as tradition, his horseman must commit suicide to accompany him to the “next world.”[2] Elesin, who is the king’s horseman, is expected to honour the tradition of his community.  He is himself ready and prepared to die as is required of him.

“These must be left alone in so far as this can be done without jeopardizing the objects of colonization and the relationship of motherland and colony, “1 says Dernburg when he refers to the organization of the Africans cultures and traditions. Soyinka’s play, however, gives an example of a British District Officer Simon Pilkings who instead of letting the Yoruba traditions be since they didn’t interfere with the governance of the colony, decides to arrest Elesin to prevent him from committing suicide. He sends Amusa to carry out the arrest. In the market where the ceremony is ongoing, Amusa and his constable cannot pass through. The women do not allow Amusa to pass through, insulting him for working for the women2. This portrays a failure of the British in following the guidelines given by Dernburg when he says, “If the white man is looked upon as mentally superior, on a higher plane economically, superior in weapons and power, the natives will decide that to render obedience to him is not only necessary but wise.”[3] The refusal of the arrest by the African women evidences the lack of European show of superiority and power in Nigeria as advised by Dernburg.

Dernburg views the African culture as savage and encourages that the Europeans maintain their own culture while governing the Africans. This is supposed to make them look superior among the Africans and hence promote their respect and curiosity towards their plans and leadership. “The colonizer can be accomplished only if he succeeds in maintaining the prestige of the white race morally and culturally, “1 says Dernburg referring to the white man. The British failure in following this guideline is illustrated when Pilkings and his wife Jane who are both Europeans are seen imitating an African dance at a gathering of their fellow Europeans[4]. The burial involves the suicidal death of Elesin and is, therefore, a good example of what Dernburg terms as savage in his speech.

Dernburg stresses the importance of not interfering with the culture of the Africans since this would evoke different feelings among the African who although not united outnumber the number of Europeans in the continent1. Maintaining a colony would mean that the Africans are first made to believe that the white culture was by far more superior to their own. Attacking their culture or trying to alter their culture forcefully without any risks to the maintenance of the colony would invite rebellion and savage reactions among the Africans towards the colonialists.

Involvement of Pilkings in the ceremony through the arrest of Elesin does more harm than good. First, it leads to the death of Olunde, the son of Elesin and later on the Elesin himself can’t bear the shame of losing his son for his own mistake and kills himself2. Pilkings reputation is injured when he mocks the Africans by dancing one of their dances in the company of his fellow Europeans. His disruption of the king’s burial through the arrest of Elesin catalyzes the start of a chain of events that are detrimental to the normal culture of the Yoruba.

The British in Nigeria symbolized by Pilkings Soyinka’s play were in constant conflicts with the Africans. They collided especially as the Africans carried out their traditions. Dernburg explains that his tour in the African colonies gave him the ideas on what to guidelines to create to promote the successful establishment of colonies in Africa. The colonial powers had to approach the Africans with peace but portraying superiority in terms of culture, morals, economic wellbeing and military power through their advanced weapons[5]. They were not interfering with the cultures of the Africans at all if their practices did not jeopardize the administration of the colonies.

Soyinka’s play shows the effects of interference of the British in the cultural practices of the Yoruba[6]. Saving Elesin from fulfilling his cultural responsibility portrays the failure of the British in respecting the culture of the people of Nigeria. The women marching to Pilkings compound symbolizes the rebellion by the Africans once they felt their culture was being disrespected by the Europeans. The result, as explained by Dernburg, would be a failure in establishing a successful colony. The British failed in respecting the cultures of the people and maintain their superiority in terms of culture and morals, and in the end, their governance of Nigeria was as successful.

 

References.

Soyinka, Wole. “Death and the King’s Horseman. Ed. Simon Gikandi.” Ann Arbor: Norton (2003).

Dernburg, Bernhard. “ENGLAND-TRAITOR TO THE WHITE RACE.” In Current History and Forum, vol. 3, no. 5, p. 840. CH publishing corporation, etc., 1916.

[1] Dernburg, Bernhard, ENGLAND-TRAITOR TO THE WHITE RACE, (CH Publishing Corporation, etc.,          1916), 840.

 

[2]  Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman, ed. Simon Gikandi (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), 45

[3] Dernburg, Bernhard, ENGLAND-TRAITOR TO THE WHITE RACE, (CH Publishing Corporation, etc.,          1916), 840.

 

[4] Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman, ed. Simon Gikandi (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), 45

 

[5] Dernburg, Bernhard, ENGLAND-TRAITOR TO THE WHITE RACE, (CH Publishing Corporation, etc.,          1916), 840.

[6] Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman, ed. Simon Gikandi (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), 45

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