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Greek myth meets Yoruba religion in Inua Ellams’ new modern epic ‘The Half God of Rainfa

TW: sexual and physical violence

Award-winning poet and playwright, Inua Ellams, has produced a new piece: The Half God of Rainfall. This playful modern epic toys with Greek mythology and Yoruba spirituality in order to wrench a creative twist into our knowledge bank of spiritual tales.

The Half God of Rainfall is centred around Demi, a young male who is half Grecian-God, half Nigerian-mortal. All Demi desires is to play basketball – a hobby forbidden for half-deities since the half-god, Michael Jordan, publicly flew through the air on the court. Born from Zeus’ sexual attack on his mother, Modupe, Demi possesses a power both terrible and admirable: he is capable of flooding the earth with just his tears. Demi’s unchecked power threatens Zeus’ ego, whose thundering rage stirs conflict between the Òrìṣà (the Yoruba Gods and Goddesses) and the Gods of Olympus, foreboding celestial warfare.

Photo by: @vitalwritersblog.

Aside from the imaginative mode of storytelling, the most admirable trait of this piece is the unbridled power of femininity. Zeus acts as an amalgamated emblem of female oppression; his unchallenged reign has continuously menaced women, both human and otherwise, throughout history. The epic hence takes on the form of an allegorical female revenge tragedy as the disenfranchised women rise up against him, symbolically battling white patriarchy. This dramatic display of unrestrained female anger harnesses the timely outrage over the recent #MeToo movement, making this piece a poignant critique in the contemporary moment.

Further, Demi’s power arguably comes from his openness to emotion – a trait which is often stigmatised as ‘weak’ and ‘feminine’. For instance, it is Demi’s ability to cry which causes riverbanks to flood. This keen sensitivity to the emotional expression of black males is in keeping with Ellams’ body of work. For example, his critically acclaimed play, Barber Shop Chronicles, is an open dissection of black masculinity and communication. Overall, Ellams endorses the emotional receptivity of young black males.

Ellams will be featured on an interactive panel entitled ‘Reimagining the Gods’ on Saturday the 6th of July for the 2019 Africa Writes literature festival at the British Library. Alongside Ellams will be Sitawa Namwalie, Dr. Louisa Egbunike and Dr. Marion Wallace. Tickets are available here.

Africa Writes 2019 Programme Brochure

Africa Writes 2019 Programme Brochure

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