Euba, Femi 1942-
EUBA, Femi 1942-
PERSONAL: Born April 2, 1942, in Lagos, Nigeria; came to the United States, 1970; son of Alphaeus Sobiyi (a confectioner) and Winifred Remilekun (a teacher; maiden name, Dawodu) Euba; married Addie Jane Dawson (a printmaker), August 5, 1992. Education: Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, diploma in acting, 1965; Yale University, M.F.A., 1973, M.A., 1982; University of Ife, Ph.D., 1988. Politics: Democrat. Religion: "Non-specific." Hobbies and other interests: Scrabble, table tennis, walking, playing the piano.
CAREER: Ethel Walker School, researcher, 1973-75; University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, lecturer, 1975-76; University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, lecturer, 1976-80, senior lecturer, 1982-86; College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, visiting professor, 1986-88; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, assistant professor, 1988-91, associate professor, 1991-96, professor, 1996—, Manship fellow, 1989. Loyola University, New Orleans, LA, lecturer, 1990; Smithsonian Institution, lecturer at African Art Museum, 1990. Theater director and actor in England, 1965-70, and Nigeria, 1976-80; consultant to African Theater.
MEMBER: Modern Language Association, Black Theatre Network, African Literature Association, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, South Western Theatre Association, British Actors' Equity Association, Phi Kappa Phi.
AWARDS, HONORS: Literary Award, Association of Nigerian Authors, 1988, for The Gulf; Critics and Directors Award, American College Theater Festival, 1993; Louisiana State University Alumni Faculty Excellence Award, 1997.
A Riddle of the Palms [and] Crocodiles (plays), produced in New York, NY, by Negro Ensemble Company, 1973.
Archetypes, Imprecators and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1989.
The Gulf (full-length play), Longman (Lagos, Nigeria), 1991.
Camwood at Crossroads (novel), 1993.
Dionysus of the Holocaust, 1996.
The Eye of Gabriel (play), produced in Baton Rouge, LA, at Louisiana State University Theater, 1998.
Also author of Riddles on Greed: Three One-Act Plays (contains A Riddle of the Palms, Crocodiles, and The Chameleon). Other plays include The Game and Abiku. Work represented in Ten One-Act Plays, edited by Cosmo Pieterse, Heinemann Educational Books (London, England), 1968; and Five African Plays, edited by Cosmo Pieterse, Heinemann Educational Books (London, England), 1970; contributor to other books, including Mapping Intersections, edited by Arme V. Adams and others, Africa World Press, 1998. Contributor of essays and plays to periodicals, including Quarterly Journal of Ideology and Black American Literature Forum.
The Yam Debt, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1963.
The Telegram, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1964.
Down by the Lagoon, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1965.
The Game, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1965.
Tortoise, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1968.
Chameleon, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1970.
The Devil, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1970.
The Wig and the Honeybee, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Monograph, 1976.
SIDELIGHTS: Femi Euba has filled many roles in the world of theater, including that of playwright, director, actor, and teacher of theater arts. His talent was obvious even when he was still a high-school student in Nigeria. Chinua Achebe, the acclaimed Nigerian novelist, who was the head of Radio Nigeria at that time, encouraged the young writer to try his hand at writing some radio plays, which were subsequently broadcast. During the 1960s, Euba traveled to England to study drama. At that time he also wrote some poems and plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation's African Theatre series. Euba later came to the United States to study drama at Yale University and, later, to teach at the College of William and Mary and Louisiana State University.
Euba's book, Archetypes, Imprecators, and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama, is an in-depth analysis of Yoruban culture and its gods, and their influence on African culture. He focuses most carefully on Esu, the god who functions as messenger to the gods above him. Euba especially emphasizes Esu's work as the administrator of fate. In Euba's opinion, Esu is at the center of Yoruba ritual; Esu is also central to black writers' ideas about character, audience, and actor as victims of fate. A reviewer for Callaloo called Archetypes, Imprecators, and Victims of Fate a "sophisticated study" of great value to anyone wishing to understand African influences on black drama and black culture; a reviewer for Choice commented: "The text will be useful to all who are concerned with black drama of any country, or with new trends in black literary theory."
Euba once told CA: "As a playwright, I'm very much a classical-conservative at heart. While I appreciate the various expressions of the avant-garde/absurdists, I feel drama, if it should appeal to a wide variety of audiences (which is what most playwrights want), cannot afford to be involved with the esoteric or the abstract in an attempt to compete with pseudo-elitist critical theories like semiotics, structuralism, deconstruction, etc. At best, there seems to be a middle ground of shared expression, which consists of a focused, visible plot or idea, and style in whatever form the playwright (or the director, for that matter) wishes to express it."
He later added: "The need to vent out concerns and problems that I find are dangerously or disturbingly imposing themselves on the human condition, this I think is what primarily motivates me to writing. To what effect, one may ask? Well, I write with the hope that I may find support from others that share similar views and feelings, and perchance affect or change lives. While this may sound rather presumptuous, I do not, however, presume a general or an enormous following, especially because of the literary depth into which I cast my work, whether a play or a fiction; but it is my hope that whatever minds I touch will experience something fresh and significant through the writing, in a way similar, for instance, to reading or seeing Shakespeare.
"In this regard Shakespeare has in fact greatly influenced my work, the way he evokes, with vibrant language, the rich, potent and succulent images that sometimes affect all the senses at once; also his characters that somewhat very much relate with certain personages in my African environment from where my own characters derive. In trying to recreate the nuances (rhythm, tone, color, characteristics, etc.) of my Yoruba culture in the English language, I see similarities in the rich, vibrant images that Shakespeare evokes with words and those commonly evoked in Yoruba language. To effect such a language in English is problematic but a challenge that I consistently strive to resolve. In this regard my mentor, and a writer I feel has explored and accomplished this re-creative process to the fullest, is Wole Soyinka, Africa's most distinguished dramatist. Equally influential are authors that have used language similarly, such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Alongside and honing these influences are of course my various experiences across cultures, Western and African, and my theater background in acting, directing and scholarship.
"My own plays have turned out to be extended metaphors in which words, subjects, or ideas explore their various parallel meanings and conceptions, and these are used to dramatize the ironies of our social and human condition. Furthermore, my background in black as well as in Western cultural and theatrical traditions has richly set my artistic vision in a multicultural mode. My commitment as a playwright is to probe and dramatize evident problems underlying the inevitable interrelationships of our multicultural existence, with the view to understanding and overcoming the problems.
"Taking a cue from Richard Gilman, one of my playwriting professors at Yale, I have since come to realize, and subsequently have more consciously explored in my plays, the extended metaphor based on a word or an idea. For instance in The Gulf, the word gulf not only expresses the physical set, but explores cultural divides between the Western and the African on the one hand, and between the African and African-American on the other. Similarly in my play, The Eyeof Gabriel, the operative word identifies interculturally about four Gabriels, all of whom are one way or another manifested by the emotional force of the physical hurricane Gabriel. These two examples probably assume that words influence my subjects. But I think this presupposes other influencing agents, such as whatever catches my ceaselessly observing eye, which then ritually engages my thought process, and finally concretizes an idea into a dramatic image or situation. However, thinking specifically more about this and taking a broad view of all my works, I think I enjoy taking rather sardonic jabs at exploitation in any of its numerous aspects. In a play one can only deal with one or two specific ideas or incidents of it at a time. But now that I am coming back to the form in which I wrote my earliest creative efforts, that is, fiction, I find that the fluidity of this form allows me to explore this 'hydra' of our capitalistic world much more widely and inventively. This is the case with my first novel, Camwood at Crossroads, which deals with the religious factor as well as many other forms of exploitation, from the personal or individual-centered to the global."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Callaloo, fall, 1990, review of Archetypes, Imprecators and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama, p. 931.
Choice, September, 1990, review of Archetypes, Imprecators and Victims of Fate, p. 123.*