a1 Osita Okagbue teaches Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Plymouth.
In the heart of the forest, Makak and his companions endeavour to come to terms with their blackness/Africanness before they can return to their Caribbean island purged of their sense of exile and alienation. The scene captures the psycho-physical pull which Africa exerts on most Caribbean peoples of African descent, an attraction which has coloured both the way of life and forms of cultural expression in the Caribbean. But more significantly, this play (and scene in particular) was my first contact with African-Caribbean theatre which I recognized as familiar, but also one mixed with a certain strangeness and foreignness. Here was a group of characters—black, of course—who spoke in a dialect of English that was very close to the pidgin of my Nigerian society, but who were very different from the Nigerian man in the street. Their racial anguish—the subject of much Caribbean literature and theatre—struck a responsive chord in me, but it definitely was not my anguish because the experience which had produced these characters was totally alien to me. However, beyond this mixture of strangeness and familiarity, was the strange familiarity of the form which Walcott employs in articulating this peculiar experience of slavery. Makak has embarked upon a journey home, albeit in his dream, with a group of other people to Africa. Symbolically, it is a rite of passage and a return to his origins and it is here that the curious mixture of foreignness and familiarity throws up a dramatic structure that is both African and Caribbean and which has led me on a search for the ‘own’ in the ‘foreign’.