Politics, culture give No More the Taming Hawks flesh
Already, the-Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement seems to have a dramatic platform to project its ideals and vision, going by the thematic preoccupation of ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo’s new play, No More the Taming Hawks, one of the 11 plays on the Longlist of the NLNG sponsored Nigeria Prize for Literature 2018.
Published by Dynasty Gold Books and Publishers, the 79-page drama, divided into 10 parts, it is a riveting dissection of an era in Nigerian history, when military leadership was the ultimate.
Ademiju-Bepo is of the fourth generation of Nigerian literature thrown up by military culture. Beyond that, he is one of the playwrights discovered by the Nigerian Universities Theatre Arts Festival (NUTAF).
Written as the final sequel to the trilogy: Rhythm of the Wind, which Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan presented at the NUTAF 1990 in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Dance of Sacred Fragments (1991), which was submitted for his first degree final project, No More the Taming Hawks is indeed ‘a parable of our times’.
A product of the Osofisan school of thought, his drama is not only committed, but is fleshed out by a dialectics: the people and their culture.
Cast in the mode of Yungba, Yungba and the Dance Contest and Twingle Twangle, a Twyne Tale Ademiju-Bepo interrogates power with cultural elements. The various characters in the story come refreshingly alive with names that readily evoke vivid images of the power and conflict between the military and the civil populace, as in the traditional art-forms, originating from the collective cultural milieu and experience of indigenous form of governance, for which the people earnestly yearn and are ready to defend, not minding the price and the wait.
The play reveals Ademiju-Bepo’s storytelling prowess, as he is able to carry the audience along in this African total theatre experience of acting, dance, music, songs, mime, puppetry and narrative in a communal relationship that expresses the socio-cultural and political needs of the people from whom the drama evolves.
No More the Taming Hawks is the story of a symbolic colony, populated by doves and hawks who have co-habited for seasons before death takes away the king dove, throwing open the race for the throne, among the heirs, Tomide, Maderin and Rohunfade (the heiress and their only sister), to wear the beaded crown of their father, for an interim period.
In this ‘parable of our times’, the colony vibrates with joy, having escaped the wrath of the gods. However, as she is about to sit on the throne, a predator fowl flies into the midst of celebration, from nowhere, scattering the doves and the entire colony, perching on the throne, to the astonishment of all around.
This is a bush fowl, everybody cries, a hawk, which has no destiny among domestic fowls. It perches on the throne alright, suspends the customs and traditions, disbands the Council of Elders, transforms himself into His Hawkcellency, and Commander-in-Chief of the Hawks Forces, Ajagunla Asagbade and invites his friends join him…and the colony has known no peace since.
The twist in the drama unfolds when the intimate relationship between Wande/Asagbade and Rohunfade is revealed during a tryst, a relationship, which he wants to revive at all cost, while still a usurper of her throne. The complication heightens when Rohunfade throws a challenge at him – her resolve to reclaim her legacy – and His Hawkcellency vows to resist.
The doves, led by the disbanded Council of Elders, the heirs and Regent-designate, also forget their intrigues and insincerity, now strengthened by their unity of purpose, constitute a severe opposition to this taming Hawk. After seasons of promises and cancellations, eventually, His Hawkcellency, for a return of the people’s inheritance, gives a date.
The climax comes when on the threshold of glory for the land, his chief hawk of the right hand, Asarinle stages a ‘palace coup’, forcing him to abdicate, only for him to also preside over another season of fake promises. The people’s dreams and hope flee into oblivion as Rohunfade, the symbol of the struggle, now pregnant, is incarcerated. Chaos and anarchy follow.
Three moons later, another Hawk, Adabaoye, rides in on the crest of the chaos and bungled dreams. Is he a hybrid as surrogate? Will the Hawks continue to tame the Doves, when the latter are destined to tame the former? How will the stolen heirloom be retrieved… and fortified against future hijack? The resolution comes as Adabaoye releases the pregnant Rohunfade, who eventually goes into the throes of labour during her coronation.
No More the Taming Hawks reflects the totality of the people’s worldview and strong desire for transformation, change and regeneration.
Coming after his first two published plays, Rape of the Last Sultan (2010, Kraft), and Farewell to a Virus of Anomie (2016, DynastyTales), at such a time that Nigeria is again at the crossroads following heavy looting of public commonwealth, and how greed, and unscrupulousness, ineptitude, injustice, terrorism and insurgency among other vices, have eaten deep into the fabric of the polity, the playwright has struck the right chord in his audience.
You can see the dramatisation of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, and the recognition and eventual enthronement of the people’s regent, the people’s choice. It is like the determination of making our vote to count.
The play takes extra courage to save and serve the land in the face of oppressive and predatory forces, taming the civil forces and complex challenges of nationhood. The story obviously appeals to the younger generation to get to know about their heritage and see on stage, part of the history they have read on the social media about sacrifice.
No More the Taming Hawks teaches youth not only to put their faith in their physical abilities but also in their God-endowed shrewdness, astuteness and willpower. The same way the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement has come to grip the land in its fever. As the playwright’s Muse and predictions come to win the day, in this evocative drama of power play and political control, Ademiju-Bepo becomes with his new play, a symbol of contemporary nationalism and cultural image-maker for all pent-up peoples within the context of the Nigerian polity and beyond.