THEATRE OF LIFE: RITUALS, TRANSITION AND PROGRESSION AMONG THE IGBO
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The Igbo are perpetual celebrants of life. Their need to celebrate life means that the Igbo will ceaselessly try to make the best of life, because they believe that although life may be full of uncertainties, such uncertainties are only temporary. So, the Igbo will celebrate whatever fortune brings in the knowledge that tomorrow will definitely be different. It is this insight into the transitory nature of things that makes the Igbo celebrate life, aware that time has the ability to obliterate uncelebrated memories. In the researcher's opinion, this work has succeeded in establishing the fact that the study and understanding of rituals do not have to be a schematic nightmare neither do they have to prove that they belong to either the dramatic or theatrical genres - rituals are just what they are - performance. Rituals reflect life in action, and this study has demonstrated that these rituals can be better understood by breaking them down into various categories and clusters (families). From such sub-division will, hopefully, emerge specific attributes which can enable us to determine the cluster each ritual belongs to. Furthermore, the analyses of rituals, ritual agents and performance styles bring out the real flavour of Igbo performance. These make it evident that Igbo performance is vibrant, symbolic and full of life, and that conversely, Igbo life is equally vibrant, symbolic and full of theatre and rituals that need to be constantly performed. It is hoped that Igbo theatre practitioners and users (playwrights, directors, producers and actors) would find the ritual categorisation and explanation of ritual symbols useful in enabling their work to be as meaningful as possible. This study developed and used the concept of Triangle of Life (ToL) to facilitates the emergence of the real nature of Igbo theatre because it enabled the classification of Igbo rituals into clusters of either passive, controlled active or active. These adjectives as used here, refer to the extent of the performer's involvement in the ritual action. However, while for the performer(s) a ritual can either be passive, controlled active or active, it is always active for the participatory spectator- audience or participant. The ToL is an equilateral triangle (three equal sides marked as A-B, B-C and C-A axes), and from plotting the rituals along the axes of the triangle, it becomes evident that Igbo theatre is in two main phases- the theatre of the living, and that of the dead - this means that while at any time any of the phases is dominant, it still has undertones of the other. For example, the rituals on the A-B and B-C axes belong to the theatre of the living, and these are performed in readiness for life after death in the ancestral realm. However, the C-A axis is made up of rituals in which the dead are made to rest and empowered to re-incarnate and re-appear at point A. This axis is equally important to the living because in empowering their dead, the living ventilate painful emotions through mourning and in so doing, they are healed not only of the departure of the deceased, but also of the most of life's pent up pains. This is a demonstration that the theatre of the living and the dead are both two sides of the same coin - none is more important than the other. In Igbo theatre, therefore, we come in direct contact with the core of Igbo dualism in which the human being operates as a spirit, and vice versa. A full appreciation of this form of theatre will depend primarily on how willing one is to remain open to the way the Igbo see, interpret and live their lives. In view of this, I shall throughout this work, continually strive to achieve the following: (a) to use the study of Igbo ritual performance to add to the picture of Igbo life (hence, Igbo theatre) which archaeology, oral tradition and observation from the Europeans gave little or no insight into, (b) to use Igbo rituals as a practical framework for understanding aspects of Igbo performance (c) by the end of this work to be able to have contributed a model that can be applied to the study of most ritual performances, and in doing so, to provide a cross-cultural perspective in ritual performance, theory and practice. Chapter 1 traces the origin of the Igbo, their entire belief system and encounter with, and progression through Christianity and colonialism. It is important that this chapter be read as dispassionately as possible, for it is only in this manner that the full effect of dualism on Igbo performance can become clearer. Chapter 2 examines some existing theoretical perspectives in relationship to ritual practices in Igboland. Chapter 3 and 4 contain the main thrust of the work because they apply the information gathered during the fieldwork to enable a better understanding of the performative structure and process of Igbo rituals. A lot of Igbo words have been unavoidably used in order that the full flavour and essence of the work is savoured. Most of these words have been explained.
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