Abstract


GLOCALCOLLOQUIES - Vol 2, Issue 1, June 2016

Pages: 26-47

Dog Sacrifice in Isidore Okpewho’s Call Me By My Rightful Name and the Works of Wole Soyinka: Ogun, Race, Identity and Diaspora

Author: Moolla, Fiona F.

Category: Research

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Abstract:

This essay considers the ways in which the significance of blood sacrifice in the propitiation of the Yoruba god Ogun is transformed in the context of international literature which asserts an endogenous African modernity, and the specificity of black experience and identity. It focuses mainly on Isidore Okpewho’s 2004 novel, Call Me By My Rightful Name, compared with the role of Ogun in Wole Soyinka’s aesthetics, foregrounding key essays, drama and poetry. Okpewho’s novel presents the reality of the ancestral call among the Yoruba of the American and Caribbean diaspora, which synecdochically represents the call of an essentialized Africa. The central character, Otis Hampton, is a middle class basketball playing African-American college student who inexplicably begins to respond in uncontrollable ways to African drumming and involuntarily chants in a language he does not understand. The attempt to explain his condition leads him to a Nigerian village from which his ancestor was betrayed into slavery by a local family. Otis’s journey of self-discovery ends only when he acknowledges his double identity, African and American, reflected in his “rightful name”, Otis Akimbowale Hampton. A key moment of the discovery of Otis’s African identity involves initiation into manhood through sacrifice of a dog to Ogun, Yoruba god of iron, war and the road. Ogun, and dog sacrifice to Ogun, are central symbols also in the work of Nobel prize-winning author, Wole Soyinka. Dog sacrifice seems central to the literary representation of Ogun, which is also pivotal in the constitution of a modern African identity in Soyinka and a diasporic Yoruba identity in Okpewho’s Call Me By My Rightful Name. The fixation with blood sacrifice to Ogun is more flexibly approached by Ogun worshippers for whom Yoruba spirituality embodied in ritual is a lived, shared experience.

Keywords: Dog sacrifice, African diaspora, Yoruba culture, Ogun, Dog sacrifice, African diaspora, Yoruba culture, oral tradition

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