The Colour of Hope: Part Three


THE play Colour of Hope, is structured in such a way as to make reading of it easy.
It is a five-Act play like most classical plays such as the Shakespearean plays, but it frees itself of the even spread of five scenes within each Act.
A major point of departure is witnessed in the varying number of scenes per Act as the detailed analysis of structure below will show.
The other stylistic idiosyncrasy is the length of the scenes.
They are all characteristically short, some spanning as short as two pages.
The effect of this is that of accelerating the speed of events.
Throughout the play the momentum gathered by the events leave the reader’s curiosity on urge.
Suspense is a key stylistic feature of the play.
Act One Scene One actually begins in medias res, with the Chief expressing his own anxiety and apprehension about the potential outcome of the Queen’s pregnancy.
The Chief’s apprehension is acutely captured by his own words: “This damned waiting game is eating me up” (p.1).
Because the Chief cannot wait, he has decided to seek the wisdom of diviners to help him ‘peep into the womb of time’.
From the outset the character of the Chief and Queen are projected as diametrically polarised.
The Chief is driven by impulse and impatience while the Queen is patient and bent on accepting Nature’s course.
She counsels patience.
That is why she advises: “Don’t you know that the ripe mango falls down on its own when it is ready to depart the cord that ties it to the mother tree?” (p. 1-2).
The attitudes of the two are also contrasted in Scene Three when they deliberate upon the potential sex of the child.
The Chief prefers a son, “a prince…a future chief, to inherit the chiefdom (not) a girl to waste out energy and substance in our decking her for her bridal day” (p.6).
The Queen is critical of such gender insensitivity.
One sees in her an outright critic of gender inequality.
So incisive is her attack on such discrimination that one is tempted to see her as a radical feminist: “That’s what I hate about you.
“And perhaps all men.
“Men especially those who have substance, royalty being the most prized, look down upon women – women and children” (p.6).
This initial contest sets the stage for the culmination of events.
For now the chief messenger chooses to remain diplomatic when he delivers the message of the diviners as follows: “Your wife the Queen will deliver a healthy human child.
“A child whose life will bring transformations into the chiefdom.
“Beyond that he said, ‘let him sit and wait’ ”(p. 7-8).
The suspense raised by the chief messenger raises curiosity.
It also shows that he is calculating and shrewd in his subtlety.
Without saying, his answer complements that of the Queen which in turn typifies Africa’s attitude towards women; that they are just as important as their male counterparts in both royal missions and royal responsibilities which point is to be attested later in the play by invocation of such African heroines as the Queen of Sheba (founder of Ethiopia), Queen Nzinga of Angola and Yaa Asantewa of Ghana.
True to expectation the Queen’s pregnancy yields a bouncing daughter, a princess symbolically named ‘Wonder-to-Become’ / ‘Wonder-to-Perform’.
And the ensuing discussion between the native adviser and native elder continue the contest of opinions (which reflect competing cultural values running throughout the play).
Continuing the line of the Chief, native elder attempts to justify the suppression of those born with disabilities such as albinos and twins on grounds that they compromise the security of the able during the times of enemy siege.
This attitude, like gender discrimination, is purported to represent the dark side of African traditional African culture.
Cultural hardliners such as the Second Adviser critically disapprove of the Princess Royal stressing; “We cannot waste royal resources on she who would go away.”
On the other hand, we have the voice of reason/ conscience represented by the Native Elder who counsels: “…we cannot mistreat those who come from our loins.
“That is inhuman.
“It is inhuman to discuss her daughter as if she were a cow” (p. 13).
The native is appropriately named.
He represents the natives, the indigenes as well as the official cultural line of Africans.
Take note too that he refers to the Princess Royal as ‘her’ not ‘his’ daughter, thus imploding the dramatic irony that she is a daughter of the soil, not of the Alien chief.
This positive view of the Native Elder sharply contrasts his earlier comments about albinos, twins and triplets, thus setting a stage for the revaluation of some of the African cultural practices which militate against universal conscience. The playwright may have housed conflicting cultural sensitivities in one body for the reason of showing that no culture is inherently perfect, but that be that as is the case, every culture has a dialectical capacity to resolve its own contradictions (without external interference) as mirrored by the character of the native elder.
The Chief Adviser, on the other hand, represents a purely parasitic and cannibalistic culture befitting an Imperial Elder.
He describes the princess as “a bitter fruit possess(ing) such potent powers”, with a capacity to corrode herself and consume those around her, “so the princess’ cosmic force has to be decapitated by the chief, her father… to neutralise her powers” (p-13).
Indeed such a culture is, to Chief Advisor’s admission, ‘a landmine’.
In Act Two, the Chief carries out the dastardly act of raping Princess Royal, justifying his carnal appetites by a faulty cultural logic: “our ancestors decreed that the chief’s royal duty to the throne is to plant the next seed into his first daughter himself” (p.20).
The effect of this callous deed is indeed messy, “scattering all the millet everywhere”(p. 13).
He behaves like a dog out of its leash before he is interrupted by the Crown Prince. The Princess Royal sums up the implication of Chief’s action when she says: “The bad-doer has become the law-enforcer” (p. 14).
This is such a mouthful commentary, shedding light on the bigger colonial agenda where the coloniser becomes both the law-giver and enforcer, the jury, the judge and the moral measure.
Important to note at this juncture is the fact that at the forefront of challenging such backward and primitive alien cultural practices are the youth, here represented by the Princess Royal herself and her brother, Crown Prince.


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