Yoruba Ritual

Yoruba Ritual

Performers, Play, Agency
Margaret Thompson Drewal
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/1/1992
ISBN: 978-0-253-11273-6
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Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria conceive of rituals as journeys—sometimes actual, sometimes virtual. Performed as a parade or a procession, a pilgrimage, a masking display, or possession trance, the journey evokes the reflexive, progressive, transformative experience of ritual participation. Yoruba Ritual is an original and provocative study of these practices. Using a performance paradigm, Margaret Thompson Drewal forges a new theoretical and methodological approach to the study of ritual that is thoroughly grounded in close analysis of the thoughts and actions of the participants. Challenging traditional notions of ritual as rigid, stereotypic, and invariant, Drewal reveals ritual to be progressive, transformative, generative, and reflexive and replete with simultaneity, multifocality, contingency, indeterminacy, and intertextuality.

Throughout the book prominence is given to the intentionality of actors as knowledgeable agents who transform ritual itself through play and improvisation. Integral to the narrative are interpolations about performances and their meanings by Kolawole Ositola, a scholar of Yoruba oral tradition, ritual practitioner, diviner, and master performer. Rich descriptions of rituals relating to birth, death, reincarnation, divination, and constructions of gender are rendered all the more vivid by a generous selection of field photos of actual performances.

Author Bio

MARGARET THOMPSON DREWAL is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. A performance theorist specializing in cultural studies, she is co-author (with Henry John Drewal) of Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Companion Video
Reader’s Road Map
1. Theory and Method in the Study of Ritual Performance
2. Yoruba Play and the Tranformation of Ritual
3. The Ontological Journey
4. New Beginnings
5. Establishing the Self
6. Ritual Play about Play: Performing Miracles in Honor of the Ancestors
7. The Collective in Conflict, or, the Play of Personalities
8. From Militarism to Dandyism: The Shaping of Performance
9. Reinventing Ritual: The Imewuro Annual Rally
10. Gender Play
Sources Cited