A study of the Dipo custom of the Manya Krobos as drama

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In Oral Literature in Africa, Ruth Finnegan asserts that traditional Africa is devoid of drama as a literary art form. Consequently, there is that erroneous impression that the human experiences in Africa that are imitated to educate and entertain are not drama. However, in Perspectives on African Literat, Oyin Ogunba says that drama is a fragile art form that is constantly in search of itself and it is ever trying new combinations to discover an identity. Ogunba is of the view that the nature of drama is such that it is impossible for it to accommodate the violence and single mindedness that is typical of propagandist imagination. In his contribution to the debate as to whether traditional Africa lacks drama or not, Michael J. C. Echeruo in Critical Perspectives on Nigerian Literature comments that drama does not only exist but also it forms a very important element of traditional African culture. Just as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has been necessitated by Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson, this thesis is in response to the ongoing debate about the existence of drama in traditional Africa. As critics are proving Ruth Finnegan wrong, this thesis is to show or prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Dipo custom of the Manya Krobos can be described as drama. There is a conscious effort to explore the Dipo custom beyond the boundaries of elements of drama per Se. Looking at the scenario in the Dipo custom, one is tempted to believe that critics of the Colonizing stock have deliberately sidelined the corpus of material that could be found in Africa. Dipo is a custom that most Dangmes, if not all Dangmes, use to initiate their girls into womanhood. Although the Dangmes form an infinitesimal portion of the Ghanaian population, they are found in almost every part of Ghana apart from Odumase and Somanya where their great ancestors settled after the descent from the Krobo Mountains. The Dipo custom has been an age old one with elements of rituals. That notwithstanding, there is “action” which is a very essential component of drama. The Krobo society of old did not have many literates thus the customs and the traditions that contaiii and preserve the culture of the Manya Krobos have not been documented. Since Literature deals with the recreation of human experience for the purpose of education and entertainment, the documenting of a people’s way of life will not only succeed in making information available to great minds but will also serve as a source of pleasure for the generality of the reading public. This thesis will therefore make great minds get in touch with a group of people with a unique culture. On the premise of the Dipo custom possessing a beginning, a middle and an end, despite the scorn heaped upon it by the people of the Christian faith, Dipo is a rain cloud that has silver lining. This discourse proves that the issue of initiating a human being into another stage of development should be considered as an expedient exercise. Of the many inter-related problems that have bedeviled humanity for quite some time now, population explosion is a major one. The Dipo custom controlled and continues to control not only population growth but also the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. As Kofi Awoonor covertly puts it in “The Cathedral”, the conflict of cultures makes the “conflict” in the dipo custom a more unique one. The discourse takes a close look at the aesthetics of the libation texts and Klama songs that accompany the Dipo custom. With the study of the Dipo custom of the Manya Krobos, which is a traditional African performance replete with the elements of drama such as plot, theme, characterization, language, music, dialogue and dance, it has been proved that most traditional performances constitute drama.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Languages, College of Arts and Social Sciences in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, 2004