Between Truths and Indulgences

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka on Africa's role in the slave trade and its consequences.

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Some progress has been made with "coming to terms" with historic truth. The season of strident denial appears to be fading, but a frame of mind still exists that resents truth's imperatives. Yes, indeed, we can pursue truth for its own sake, bloodless, detached, ahistoric, divorced from current actualities, or we can seek truth as a key to understanding the present, and identifying the pointers it holds for the future. Thus, it sometimes appears that the main bone of contention is: To what end is truth evoked?

Today, within Nigeria, 50 years following the discomfort elicited by A Dance of the Forests, the play is being re-commissioned to coincide with the independence celebrations. I asked the initiator of the project why he wanted that play specifically, and not a more contemporary work. I already knew the answer, of course: He wanted the nation to examine the present after half a century -- in the light of the warnings that were so explicit in that play at independence.

Tomorrow read part II of Wole Soyinka's take on the role of Africa in the slave trade.

Wole Soyinka, a native of Nigeria, was the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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