Nigerian playwright and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka once described The Swamp Dwellers as an exploration of economic displacement and cultural disruption resulting from the pillage of natural resources by colonial governments and international corporations. Soyinka set his play deep in the Niger Delta, a place of dense mangrove swamps and the folkloric Mami Wata—a half-human, half-fish seductress, to highlight the environmental degradation and lost livelihoods of the Yoruba, Ogoni, and other indigenous peoples. By focusing on a handful of characters who inhabit or pass through a small hut built by Makuri and Alu, an impoverished elderly couple eking out an existence in the heart of the swamp, Soyinka reveals how migration and acculturation erode traditional values and reshape identity in ways that encourage avarice and self-interest over family and community, promote political and economic corruption, and accelerate the replacement of indigenous belief systems with the depersonalized transactional values of commerce and trade.


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pp. 61-76
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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