In this short conversation, Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Martin Adaji takes a look at the dramatic and theatrical potentials of Achebe?s works and concludes that the master story teller?s deft and? creative use of language accounts for the successful adaptations of his two of? seminal works: Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. He spoke to McPhilips Nwachukwu.
Can you talk about Achebe and the dramatic and theatrical resources for which his imaginative writing provided for the stage, theatre and the movie?
As a young boy growing up? in the village, my first encounter with literature began with the works of Chinua Achebe, especially Things Fall Apart. My Dad , who passed on? in January this year, was an ardent? lover of Achebe?s books and talked about Things Fall Apart so passionately that even at that young age in primary school I had to read the book.
And unknown to me, reading the book then? looked to me as though he was speaking my language. Achebe had this craft of? manipulating the word. If he was speaking English? using the English language you would think he was speaking Igbo to you. You would begin to think about what he said in your own language. He spoke English with the fluidity of the Igbo language.
Take for instance when he makes a statement like : ? proverb is oil with which words are eaten.? It? doesn?t register in the English sense because? words are not eaten in the English sense. But if you translate that expression from the colloquial sense in which it made, it brings out the aesthetic nuances of the personality of Achebe.
It is therefore that kind of craftiness, and that pitch of translation that makes Achebe and his books profound and has equally made it possible for him to be translated to over fifty languages.
Things Fall Apart is one? of the most translated works in recent memory. And because? of? the relevance of early missionary activities with the African continent, not just? in Igbo land, the narrative therefore becomes a symbol of what everybody experienced.
And if you are living a? lived experience with those similar? to other people?s experiences, it captures all the experiences that you have gone through yourself? in your own environment and community.
So, when you look at the works of Achebe, specifically, with reference to Things Fall Apart, the effect of colonialism in West Africa, the translator of Ichoku, a television character drawn from that narrative? become all translations that come out from the book.
Achebe was profound as an artist and the fact that he cuts across made him become more popular that many of his peers.
He spoke a language that many people understood. He was not speaking to select? audience. Unlike his counter part, Wole Soyinka, who wrote in the form of verse, poetry? and grandly rooted in the traditional backing. Soyinka spoke the language of ifa and all the Yoruba gods. And you can?t even blame him for that because the language of the gods is not plain languages.
How do all of these nuances help in the theatrical and dramatic interpretation of Achebe?s works ?
When you look at theatre, language is a very important segment of theatre practice. After all, the aim of theatre is not only to entertain , but more importantly? to communicate. If the language of a play is wildly known, it endears it more to the viewers. If one decides for instance to go into pidgin performance, one will have more followers than?? when one decides to go for Queens English performance. Achebe?s language was down to earth and was easy for the common man to understand. He also spoke in proverb for the elders to understand. And fundamentally, he communicated about events that outlived human memory.
If by your account , this experiences are peculiar to the home reader,? do you think that his narrative will draw the same sense of? dramatic appeal from the foreign reader ?
Oh, definitely. Because you can actually think about the aesthetic of Achebe in your own tongue and actualise it. Look at what late Bassey Effiong did when he translated Things Fall Apart. It was so profound that you would think you were reading the novel while watching the adaptation. That novel can be anything. A good film script writer will? break down? the story and do a film script out of that novel.
Which other of Achebe?s works do you think should be turned to into a movie?
Arrow of God is there.
Yes, Prof. Emeka Nwabueze of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka did something about that with his production of stage adaptation titled, When the Arrow Rebounds? during Achebe?s 60th birthday?
Ok, I don?t know about Emeka?s own. But attention can also go to A Man of the People, Ant Hill of the Savannah, No Longer At Ease or even Chike and The River.
Given Achebe?s immense contribution to the development of literature and theatre, don?t you think, the Troupe as an agency of government can use the opportunity of his death? to stage Things Fall Apart as a kind of fare well? play in his memory?
One thing is clear. Achebe is not just a national hero. He is in fact, a pan Africanist. He may not have been fulfilled in one respect because he did not get the kind of dream he wanted? Nigeria to be.
Every artist has his own goal and definitely,? and if he did not succeed? in that? yesterday, I was reading about his village, Ogidi, and I read about? how bad one of his Uncle?s felt because he could not get the kind of leadership he wanted in his community.
That? kind of feeling is? frustration in the life of an artist. But I can tell you that as far as the National Troupe is concerned, we are going to give a thought to that kind of thing. If we can not do it now definitely in future during his anniversary. We have a lot to celebrate about that man Achebe.
Comments are moderated. Please keep them clean and brief.