Award Date

5-15-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Douglas Unger

Second Committee Member

Maile Chapman

Third Committee Member

Vincent Perez

Fourth Committee Member

Susanna Newbury

Number of Pages

490

Abstract

Memories of Three Rivers is set in twelfth-century Oyo, Borgu, and Nupe, three kingdoms, in present-day Togo, Benin, and Nigeria that co-existed along the lower bend of the River Niger. In my re-imagining of the lives of my main characters, deified in West Africa and

the African diaspora, I peeled away myths, legends, and centuries to reveal their humanity while being aware and true to unique customs, religions, philosophies, and storytelling traditions.

Sango’s seven-year rule was a period of trade and wars and this is depicted in the dynamic and often catastrophic relationships that existed between the courts of the three kingdoms, and in the snapshots of the lives of common people.

Esu, the divine messenger and Yoruba trickster Orisa, and the Arokin, palace oral historians, weave Yoruba philosophy and mythology throughout the manuscript providing a backdrop for this complex culture and its ways of storytelling and archiving. The Arokin also

bring to the page other views of those seven years, the official, religious, and people’s versions of history.

Memories of Three Rivers follows the journeys of Oba, Oya, and Osun to Borgu three capitals, Bussa, Ilo, and Nikki, and Nupe's main groups, the Beni and Jeba. The women send their merchandise across many waters and whenever the need arises to protect their interests in their husbands’ court, they gather information and seek allies.

Oba the Orisa of domesticity, Osun the Orisa of femininity, and Oya the Orisa of winds are Ayaba, wives of Sango the Orisa of lightning and thunder—the Third Alaafin Oyo. Memories of Three Rivers briefly touches on the women’s origins, childhoods, infertility, and eventual motherhood. Oba was born near the swamps at Igbon, she was wise and industrious. Beautiful and sultry Osun was from Ilesa and she divined with sixteen palm fruits. Oya was born in the Island of Jeba and became a buffalo woman as she came into her power as the bridge between death and the ancestors. The women traded in markets far and near, fought battles among themselves in the women's quarters of the Aafin, and fought from Sango’s side in his ten wars.

Yoruba oral history archived in the memories of generations of Oyo Arokin, Orunmila’s 256 books of the Odu Ifa, and Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World provide the literary framework for this work. I hope this thesis will contribute to the muted conversations about the three Ayaba of Sango and their legacies, further enriching the oral archives of the Yoruba.

Disciplines

Creative Writing

Language

English

Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2025


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