NEW YAM BANDIT" An African Play by Oliver
African Cultural Play for Schools and The Public
Us For performance Proposals Now
© Oliver Mbamara 2004
“The New-Yam Bandit” is a cultural story set in the early Ibo society (a tribe in a place now known as southeastern Nigeria) before the coming of western colonization. It is the story of inter-family and personal trifles against the strength of societal laws, customs, and traditions. The principal parties include the wealthiest man in the village of Umuaro named Uba Anyaukwu, the community’s laziest and poorest man named Mazi Oriji, the community’s greatest but feuding wrestlers and warriors – Nze Asoanya and Dikeogu.
After the farming season, the members of the community are prohibited from plucking pears or harvesting and eating yam tubers from the soil until an appointed time (the day of the festival) when the entire community would come together to thank the Gods for blessing them with the showers of the rain and the harvest of crops from the land. They also show appreciation for living through the year and its seasons. This community practice enables the crops to mature without being plucked or reaped prematurely. The act of plucking such fruit or eating such yam before the festival day is considered an abomination and an offence against the Gods and the Land. It is a serious offence which earns the person a banishment into the wild forest if found guilty at an open community trial. Ibos do not maintain a prison system, hence punishment for a crime could be by way excommunication, banishment, exile, or demotion from a title earned.
At such festivals, achieving members of the community are conferred with titles for their valor and/or achievements. However, such conferment often encounters oppositions, some of which are true and justifiable, while some could be unfounded and ill motivated.
Mazi Oriji is caught with some fresh new-yam and is brought to the village square for the community trial. There are divided opinions as to whether he should be punished for only stealing the yam tubers as he admitted or banished into the wild forest for eating the fresh yams, which he denies. The venue of the trial brings to forefront the animosity hitherto existing between two of the community’s greatest wrestlers (Nze Asoanya and Dikeogu).
Did Mazi Oriji do it or not. Will these feuding wrestlers and warriors use the trial of Mazi Oriji as a pun and an avenue to settle old scores or will the justice system of the land have its way? Is Uba Anyaukwu a contented wealthy man who seeks the maintenance of law and order or a selfish and greedy individual full of unexpected machinations? Is Mazi Oriji a thief with a conscience or a loafer with no respect for the laws of the land? Who will pay and for what? How does this affect the rest of the villagers? Will the justice and political system stand this test? The attempt to address these questions is the true story of “The New-Yam Bandit.”
This play seeks to present to the present generation, the governmental and political processes that some early African societies adopted before western civilization. Some of such practices still exist in many African societies today; though most of them have been modified to accommodate the present dispensations. In achieving this, the play explores the following:
- the importance of festivals in Ibo land
- the intricacies of the justice system as practiced in Ibo land (Africa) before the coming of western civilization and laws
- the trial process as executed by the community in early Ibo society
- the place of punishment in the maintenance of law and order in early Ibo societies
- the dominance of societal customs, traditions, and considerations over the rights of the individual or the exercise of individual will and freedom
CAST, SCENES, and COSTUMES
There are 8 principal Actors, 2 minor Actors, and flexible number of Extras.
The scenes include a market place, Bedroom, Compound, and Village Square.
The costumes are typical Ibo attires of mostly wrappers, shawls, bangles, beads, plus make up
RUN TIME – Between an hour and an hour and a half (Expandable or reducible)
© Oliver Mbamara 2004