Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3334670

Abstract

“The Vow” by Wale Ogunyemi is a film script which, according to the author, attempts to utilize the full range of film techniques. The camera direction is clearly delineated from the very first shot which is intended to be “an aerial view of a vast area of farm land showing a long line of pegs demarcating two territories.” In this visual way the issues are seen from the opening shot of the divided land and the antagonisms it provokes. Nevertheless, although this is a significant part of the story, its chief theme rests elsewhere in another division: between old and new, between established traditions and change. The story describes how a young man, having been educated in America, returns home to a welcoming celebration, without having told the chief, his father, of his marriage to an American woman. The chief's advisor sensibly suggests that he buy his son a modern “pleasure car” as a homecoming gift, but the chief decides upon the more traditional gift. He has prepared the ultimate celebration for his son's return: marriage to the most beautiful girl in the community. He despotically and arbitrarily insists on this, no matter that to free her for his son he has to violently and cruelly rend her from her lover and finally jail him to force this separation. Inevitably, disaster befalls. The play's focus is not upon the old argument of culture conflict. It is only minimally concerned with the young man and his new bride, Joy. It is rather a tragedy concerning the Oba and the way in which he has committed himself to a disaster from which he has too much pride to rescue himself. It is the tragedy of a man who rigidly commends himself to a standard that brings condemnation, for it is simultaneously heroic and foolish in its inflexibility. The Oba lives by the letter of the law; his words cannot be altered even to match differing circumstances: “Now hear this:/My yes should be yes/And my no, a rigid no./If ever I alter my word,/May my end come.” His motive may be desirable: “I will never let him despise/The ways of our fathers/Because of a white man's education.” But as his advisor remarks in a fine proverbial image: “Whatever we hold with ease, Kabiyesi,/Never hurts. It is that which is/Held tightly that breaks in the palms./A little patience…” But patience is not a commodity that the Oba appreciates. As he sharply comments: “An act of kindness shown to a chicken,/Is not done wholeheartedly./It's only to make it dance well/In our cooking pot.” The best example of the technique of the script writer can be found in the scenes in which the chief has his wise man create magic that will drive away his son's intrusive foreign wife. The language ranges from homely colloquialism to intensely poetic invocation. The scenes appear and vanish, merge, are superimposed and juxtaposed in a melange that is peculiarly the artistic effect which the film can achieve in its poetic dimension.