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Wole Soyinka: "The Changing Mask of Fear" (Reith Lecture)

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Monkey see Monkey Do Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 08:41 PM
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Wole Soyinka: "The Changing Mask of Fear" (Reith Lecture)
THis is the first of five of this year's BBC Reith lectures (annual series named after the first Director General John Reith). The Soyinka's topic is "Climate of Fear" & you can get an overview of the lectures at:

with lots of bits & bobs to explore at: /


This is an audio link to the lecture (& apparently an mp3 will be available to download 'soon'(!):


I have taken myself back to the late seventies when, at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts, I delivered a lecture under the title, 'Climates of Art'. Introducing that lecture, I made the following admission: I quote: "The title is of course deliberate. It is meant to trigger off those associative devices so that 'Climate of Fear', 'Climate of Terror' etc. will surface in the mind without much conscious effort."

My departure point, my main area of concern at the time was the fate of the arts - and artists - under the burgeoning trade of dictatorship and governance through a forced diet of fear, most especially on the African continent - in common parlance, the fear of 'the midnight knock'. Arbitrary detentions. Disappearances. Torture as the rule rather than the exception. Even cynical manipulations of the judicial process where a political dissident found himself in what could be described as a revolving dock without an exit. Decades after that lecture, the world took bitter note of the hanging of the Nigerian activist, Ken Saro-wiwa and eight of his companions after a kangaroo trial - mostly because he was a writer, but also because his cause, that of ecological preservation, had become a global agenda.

At the time of that lecture, Nigeria, my immediate political constituency, was reeling under the execution, by firing squad, of three young men under a retroactive decree - in other words, the crime for which they were convicted - drug trafficking - did not carry a capital forfeit at the time of commission. That defiant act of murder had a purpose - to instill fear into the populace by deliberately flouting the most elementary principles of justice. And so on and on it went. The Nigerian event wrung two plays out of me - A Scourge of Hyacinths for radio, and From Zia with Love, its stage version - so persistently did that episode insist on haunting my re-creative temper. I was not alone. The entire nation was deeply traumatized.

While that regime lasted, there was no question about it - for the first time in the brief history of her independence, the Nigerian nation, near uniformly, was inducted into a palpable intimacy with fear, an experience that was never undergone even in the most brutal season of the colonial mandate. The question on every mind was simply this: those who were capable of a deed that revolted even the most elastic sectors of the public conscience, what else were they capable of? It is a question to bear in mind in attempting to understand what distinguishes, from the past, the new fabric of fear that we all seem to wear at this moment. As each assault on local or global sense of security is mounted or uncovered just in time, the residual question is surely: What next? Where? How? Are limits or restraints any longer recognised?
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loftycity Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 08:49 PM
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1. Thanks for the links--you post good information
Here's a link of an artist. It's interesting.
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