ILLUSIONS Vol. II Oedipus

by Grada Kilomba (2018)

 

Characters

Jocasta Martha Fessehatzion
Lauis Errol Trotman Harewood
Oedipus Moses Leo
Laius Herald Zé de Paiva
Polybos Herald Zé de Paiva
Sphinx Grada Kilomba
Theiresias Sara-Hiruth Zewde

 

The Chorus

Kalaf Epalanga
Martha Fessehatzion
Errol Trotman Harewood
Moses Leo
Grada Kilomba
Tito Casal
Sara-Hiruth Zewde

Storyteller Grada Kilomba
Music composed by Neo Muyanga

 

I. INTRO

There are pieces

in our history

that seem quite

incomprehensible.

 

Sometimes we want

to know the truth,

and still,

the truth seems

so unreasonable,

so difficult

to comprehend.

 

I think

there is nothing

more traumatic

than dealing

with the unreason.

 

Dealing with

the fact that

one cannot apply

any reason

to the truth.

 

I want to tell you a story,

an unreasonable story.

 

A story

that might explain

some of these pieces

in our history

that seem so

incomprehensible.

 

It is the story of Oedipus.

 

MUSIC

“Narratives of Hate”(#1, chorus only), by Neo Muyanga

 

I.

This is a tragic story.

 

This is a story

that starts with

a fearful man:

Laius.

 

Laius,

the King of Thebes,

who had married

Queen Jocasta,

and with whom

he ruled

the kingdom.

 

The two, wished children,

but didn’t have any

for a very long time.

So, Laius have decided

to ask advice from

the oracle of Delphi,

to know the truth. (Errol beats the stick on the floor)

 

The oracle from the gods

had heard the king’s pleas (Wait for Sara)

and had warned Laius

not to have a child,

for if he did,

the son who would be born to him,

would become

his father’s murderer. (Errol gets up, stool/throne falls)

 

“That child will kill you.”

said the oracle.

“That child will

marry his own mother.”

 

Laius was enraged,

with the idea that

his not yet born son,

would eventually

take his own life,

and his own throne.

 

But, not long after

this fearsome prediction,

Jocasta was pregnant,

and Laius would soon

become the father

of whom he feared most –

his own child.

 

II.

Before his birth

the baby was already

predestined to die.

For Laius

did not allow him

to be alive

or to exist.

 

And Jocasta,

the mother,

saw herself forced

to agree with

his death sentence.

 

A small baby (Moses starts moving on the floor)

exposed to a fate

that it is difficult

to comprehend.

 

III.

When the child was born, (Moses fetus, is wrapped in blood

Laius fearing by Errol and Martha – Neo cries…chorus)

the prophecy,

cruelly pierced

the baby’s ankles

and demanded that

his herald

takes the child away

to be killed

by exposure

on the mountain.

MUSIC

“Narratives of Hate”(full version), by Neo Muyanga

IV.

But, the herald (Zé carries Moses away outside the image)

did not obey

the king.

 

He had felt

sorry for the baby,

so he took him

in his arms

and secretly

handed the child to

the herald of Polybos,

the King of Corinth.

 

Polybus and his wife,

Queen Periboia,

have decided

they would raise

the baby themselves

in their palace,

as their own child.

 

She healed

his ankles,

and named

the child Oedipus,

the one with swollen feet.

 

V.

The child grew up. (Sara installs the ‘encruzilhada’)

 

And, one day

during a banquet

in the palace,

a drunken guest

began insinuating

that Oedipus did not know

who he really was,

and that he was not

the true son

of Periboia and Polybos.

 

Oedipus was concerned

about the insinuations

and questioned his mother,

but she didn’t dare

to tell him the truth.

 

Despite the mother’s

false assurances,

Oedipus wanted to know

who he really was.

 

So, he went to Delphi,

to ask who his true parents were.

 

The oracle

from the gods

did not answer

about his true heritage,

but instead

offered him

a prophecy.

 

The prophecy was:

that one day

he would murder

his own father,

and would marry

his mother.

 

VI.

Hearing this, (Moses runs lateral, slow motion)

and believing that

he was born

from those who

were said to be his parents,

 

he ran away,

he ran and ran,

he ran as fast as he could,

trying to escape his own prophecy.

 

He ran and went into the direction of Thebes.

 

And on his way,

as he was travelling

through Phocis,

he encountered

a group of men,

coming in the

opposite direction,

at a narrow

three way crossroad.

 

VII.

But the elder man, (Errol and Moses fight. Neo – drumming)

of the group

did not let Oedipus pass.

 

They got into a violent

discussion about

who could pass first,

and who should give way.

 

The man demanded

his heralds

to attack Oedipus.

 

In defence, Oedipus

killed them all,

except one,

who ran away.

 

He killed

the elder man

without knowing,

it was King Laius,

his father.

 

MUSIC

“Narratives of Hate”(#2, percussion only), by Neo Muyanga

 

VIII.

Jocasta awaited Laius, (Martha on her throne)

who would not return

from his journey.

 

And her brother Creon,

used this chance

to take over

the throne.

 

During this time,

the city was at the

mercy of the Sphinx,

who was punishing the city,

for something

terrible that was once done.

 

Many have died

in the hands of the Sphinx.

including Creon’s son Haimon.

 

Becoming desperate,

Creon proclaimed

that he would give both:

the throne and the hand

of his sister and widow

of King Laius,

Jocasta,

to anyone who

would solve

the riddle

of the Sphinx

and would free the city

from such terrible threat.

 

IX.

The Sphinx (Grada enters, and seats at the gate)

was a monster.

 

She had the face

of a woman,

the body of a lion,

and wings, like a bird.

 

The goddess Hera

had placed

the Sphinx

right at the gate

of Thebes.

 

And she would eat anyone

who would not give

the correct answer

to her riddle.

 

Oedipus had

finally arrived

at the city gates.

 

The Sphinx

looked at Oedipus,

and as always

spoke her riddle

that she had learned

from the Muses:

 

“What is it,

that has a single voice,

and has four feet in the morning,

two feet in the afternoon,

and three feet in the evening?”

 

Oedipus,

carefully thought,

and gave his answer.

 

He said:

“A human being.”

 

“A human being

who crawls on

four legs as a baby,

walks on two legs

as an adult,

and uses a walking stick,

as a third leg,

at an older age.”

– he said.

 

This was the correct answer to the riddle.

 

The Sphinx,

having her riddle answered,

threw herself off

the high cliff,

Acropolis.

 

And Oedipus

had entered the city of Thebes.

 

X.

Oedipus (Martha and Moses dance together)

was celebrated

and held as a hero,

and as promised

he married

Queen Jocasta,

and became

Oedipus Rex,

the king of Thebes.

 

They had four children:

Polyneices, Eteocles,

Ismene and Antigone.

MUSIC

“Narratives of Hate”(#3 piano only), by Neo Muyanga

 

XI.

They have ruled for years. (All actors on the floor, blood)

 

But then another

terrible plague

threatened

the city again.

 

People were dying

on the streets,

one after the other,

and bodies

were lying on

the ground,

dead.

 

“What is the meaning of all this?

What is the meaning of this tragedy?

asked Oedipus.

 

“I came to see it,

with my own eyes!

I, who you call:

Oedipus the great.

I want to know the truth.

I want to know why

my people are being

killed on the streets

of their own kingdom!

One after the other,

like dogs.”

 

“I have sent

the brother

Of my wife Jocasta

to the temple

of Apollo in Pythien

to learn what

could be the cause

of this suffering.

I personally

count the days.

Waiting until

he comes,

with an answer.“

 

When Creon arrived,

he reported that

it was said, that

Laius murderer

was living unpunished

in the city of Thebes.

 

And that the

god Apollo

would not remove

his curse from the city,

until the murderer

was found,

banished or

killed.

 

XII.

Oedipus (The chorus, mirror movement, Kalaf)

spoke to his people

in front of the palace.

 

“Laius, a man

I have never seen!

His murderer

is here among us.

Who could have done this?

You have to tell me the truth!”

 

And yet,

there was someone

who could reveal

everything:

 

the blind prophet,

Teiresias

who was known

for reading

the oracle

from the gods.

 

XIII.

“Teiresias, (Sara retira todos os bancos/tronos)

you are our last

refuge, prophet!

 

We need your help,

We need to know

the truth.

Please do not hide

the truth from us.

 

Save us prophet!

Save my kingdom!

My people!

Save us all

from this death!”

 

“I ask you, please do not deny us what you know!

 

But, Teiresias

refused to speak

and instead told

Oedipus that

he would rather

save him

from the pain

of the truth.

 

“No, I want to know the truth!

How dare you

to abandon us

in this despair!”

– claimed Oedipus.

 

„We need to know!

We need the answer

to this tragedy.

My people is dying!

My kingdom is falling apart.

I insist!

I insist that you tell us what you know“

 

Teiresias told

Oedipus that

he himself

murdered a man,

whose murder

he seeks.

 

“What?

Impossible!

I have never saw Laius,

the previous king.“

 

I am a good king!

I am a man who lives in the light!”

 

Teiresias replied

Oedipus was a man,

who sees,

but is blind.

 

He was a man

who was not aware of

who he really was.

 

He was not aware

that he could not be

the child of

his own parents,

 

and was not aware

that he was not

the father,

of his own

children.

 

He was

the rival

and the murder

of his own

father.

 

One by one,

Teiresias

dismantled the

entire kingdom.

 

XIV.

Jocasta, (Martha and Moses)

came in his defence:

 

“I don’t understand.

Why should you

not be the father

of our own children?

And why should

the previous King

be killed by you?”

 

Oedipus

confessed that

he had committed

a murder a long time ago;

and that there was

a prophecy,

the reason why

he left Corinth.

 

“There was a

murder indeed.”

– she said,

“But a murder

committed

by several men,

in a three way

crossroad,

a long time ago.”

 

“I have to confess,

there was a prophecy,

that Lauis would

be killed by

his own child,

but our son

was sent to death

by Laius himself”

– she said.

 

Oedipus realised

what was being said.

 

And still,

their confessions

could not give

prove to

the words of

Teiresias.

 

So, Oedipus

has asked that

the herald of Laius

and only survival

would be searched

and brought

to the palace

immediately.

 

XV.

But, the herald from Corinth (Zé and Zé with beads)

enters unexpectedly the palace.

 

He bears sad news,

Polybos,

the father of Oedipus

and king of Corinth

has died.

 

And his mother,

Queen Periboia

wants Oedipus

to come back

and rule

the kingdom.

 

Jocasta

is relieved:

„I was sick of fear“,

she said.

 

„But, the prophecy

that you would kill

your own father is wrong!

Your father has just died!“

 

The herald explained

that Polybos

was not his father.

Oedipus was

given to him,

and he himself

brought him

to the palace

of Corinth.

 

“There was another men”

answered the herald.

“A man who have

taken you to the

mountain,

he was ordered

to let you die.

But, he gave you

to me.

To save you.”

 

The second herald

finally appears

to confirm

what the first

has said.

 

“I gave you to him.

To this exact man.”

 

“You were given to me,

by your own parents.

But, I could not

let you die.

I took you

in my arms

and gave you

away,

secretly.”

 

“I took you, to save you from the death.”

 

XVI.

Horrified, (Moses is born from Martha)

they both

had to realise t

hat they were

wife and husband.

 

Mother and son.

 

One flesh.

 

Jocasta run to the palace,

and ended her own life.

 

Oedipus found her,

and pinched

his own eyes,

not to see

again.

 

XVII.

Jocasta’s Suicide (Martha and Moses, black paper ribbons)

 

MUSIC

“Narratives of Hate”(#1, chorus only), by Neo Muyanga

 

XVIII.

This story can be told (Family photo – nation)

in many different ways.

 

Oedipus is a tragic story,

that has been mostly told

as a Freudian story of desire:

 

The child’s desire

for the parent

of the other sex,

and the hostility

towards the

parent of

the same sex.

 

The so called Oedipus complex.

 

But, this cannot

explain the reality

of most of us:

 

The concept would have to be

expanded, as for instance,

in homosexuality LGBTQI,

the object of love,

is not the one

of another sex,

but of the same.

 

And in terms

of gender,

women begin

their life in

a homosexual queer relationship.

After all, the mother,

is the first

object of love

and of desire.

 

So, things seem to be more dimensional…

 

The story of Oedipus

is not only

a story of desire.

But, also a

story of genocide,

violence

and loyalty.

 

This is a story

that tell us much

about the unbearable

violence against

Black people

and other

marginalised groups.

 

A story that

reveals much about

the horrific tradition

of exterminating

and murdering

Black people.

 

The so called Black genocide.

 

XIX.

Oedipus, (Moses runs, front, until exhaustion, slow)

son of the king of Thebes,

who was almost killed

by his own parents,

had no intention

of murdering

his own father.

But, he did,

without knowing.

 

It was the

father himself,

who saw the child

as a rival,

and who have planned

to murder him,

in the first place.

 

Oedipus

finds himself in a

Oedipal conflict:

to be killed

by his father

or to kill

his father himself.

 

A symbolic conflict

that exposes

the rivalry

within a patriarchal

relationship.

 

Freudians,

understood

this conflict

within the

family only.

 

It was said,

that the child struggles

with masculine authority,

to be prepared for

the competitive

and aggressive demands

of the adult life.

 

And yet, to be loyal

to the law and authority,

that they will represent

themselves, one day.

 

But, this fixation

in the (white) family,

ignores the historical

and political dimensions

of this conflict.

 

For within a

colonial relationship

as much as marginalised people,

respect the law,

we can rarely become

the lawful authority.

 

We become instead

the ones punished or

murdered by the law itself.

 

So writes Fanon:

“The family is a

miniature of the nation.

And because

colonised families

do not mirror the

colonial nations,

our neuroses arise

not within our

own family,

but in contact

with the violence

of the white world”

– that is so unreasonable.

 

XX.

But, how come our bodies (Foto de família, changes)

become the place

where violence

and murder

can be performed

so gratuitously?

 

Well, to escape

the dreadful competition

with the patriarchal figure,

in the colonial context,

the white subject

presents itself

as the symbolic child,

whose throne

is being threatened,

by the Other,

that has to be

destroyed.

 

The feared father,

rival and

competitor

is then substituted

by the Other.

 

And this becomes

the fearful and

symbolic rival

who threatens

the symbolic child –

the white subject,

who mimics the patriarch.

 

This guarantees

access to power,

and allows

positive feelings

towards the family

and the nation

to remain intact. (loyality)

 

So, the murderous

fantasies

of the Oedipal conflict

and the unconscious wish

to kill and destroy

the patriarchal figure

are repressed

and performed on

marginalised bodies,

gratuitously.

 

The Black bodies

become the place

where insult,

humiliation,

punishment,

incarceration,

violence

and

murder

are performed.

 

We live in a white cube,

that has a very

problematic relationship with Blackness.

 

XXIII.

“What else could this be for me, (Chorus)

but an amputation,

an exclusion,

an excision,

a haemorrhage

that spattered

my whole body

with Black blood?”

– said Fanon.

 

He uses the

language of trauma

indicating the

painful bodily

impact and loss

characteristic

of a traumatic collapse.

 

For within racism,

one is surgically removed,

violently separated

of whatever identity

one might really have.

 

A shock,

a violent shock,

not violent

because it is not expected,

but rather,

because it is so dehumanising.

 

It places us outside humanity.

 

XXII.

There are pieces (All… final dance)

in our history

that seem quite

incomprehensible.

 

Unreasonable.

 

I think

there is nothing

more traumatic

than dealing with

the unreason.

 

Dealing with

the fact that

one cannot apply

any reason

to the truth.

 

But within racism

there is no agreement

at the level of reason.

 

Everything about it,

is unreasonable.

 

Everything.

 

There is nothing

I wish more than

to liberate myself

from this

unreason.