ABOUT THE PLAY
A play by Wole Soyinka based on a real incident that took place in Nigeria during the colonial era: the horseman of a Yoruba King was prevented from committing ritual suicide by the colonial authorities. According to Yoruba tradition, the death of the king must be followed by the ritual suicide of the king’s horseman as well as the king’s dog and horse, because the horseman’s spirit is essential to helping the chief’s spirit ascend to the afterlife. Otherwise, the king’s spirit will wander the earth and bring harm to the Yoruba people. The first half of the play documents the process of this ritual, with the potent, life-loving figure Elesin living out his final day in celebration before the ritual process begins. At the last minute, the local colonial administrator, Simon Pilkings, intervenes, the suicide being viewed as illegal and unnecessary by the colonial authorities.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, world’s highest recognition for writers, in 1986. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta, in 1934. His full name is Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka.
In 1954, he attended Government College in Ibadan, and subsequently University College Ibadan and the University of Leeds in England. After studying in Nigeria and the UK, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London, one of the world’s leading theatres for launching new work.