Ecclesiastes in Drama: A Cultural Reading in dialogue with African Proverbs

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Author: Mark S. Aidoo
ISBN 978-9988-53-916-0
DOI: 10.38159/npub.eb20602
Published: 2nd July, 2020

This book seeks to present the book of Ecclesiastes as an Akan drama.It presents a family of seven who always meet every evening to share
a common meal. The conversations during the mealtime centers on the words in the book of Ecclesiastes. It shows that Ecclesiastes is written as if there are other voices in dialogue with the author. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author uses multivalent language, literary devises, and rhetorical strategies to draw home his views. The speeches are poetic, employing the techniques of irony, ambiguity and double-entendre to argue on contradictions and indeterminacy of meaning.

The proverbial sayings in the book of Ecclesiastes further portray the idea that others must join in the monologue as in the case of the use of African proverbs. The aim, therefore, is to highlight the various voices and language, and reflect on them with African voices. The seven voices recognised in the book and captured using honorific names of the Akan of Ghana and set in cantata, which is a play interspersed with poetry and songs. Among the Akan of Ghana, such names are given based on the day of the week one is born. Some names are for females and others are for males.

What I have aimed at in this book is to present an easy reading of a difficult book. I must admit that there are so many who find African proverbs very difficult to grasp. Perhaps I have made the book of Ecclesiastes more difficult. Wise sayings lie at the foundations of African culture and define life, although they are a rich resource for education. The book then discusses the background and message of Ecclesiastes so that the drama can be meaningful. Admittedly, contemporary generations are losing the sense of proverbs and wise saying in daily life.

My aim further is to encourage dramatic plays as integral part of biblical studies and theological education. The hope is that everyone should be creative. Creativity is a powerful tool that can be used to communicate the gospel. It has an educational element that comes from the practical to the aesthetic. At lectures, I challenge students to be creative. This became my “fresh” approach to teaching. I expect them to act plays and create poetry. In most cases, the books of Job and Proverbs became appealing to students. I came to realise that I could also do my part and make them sail through Ecclesiastes. That made me write a short play on Ecclesiastes. The play captured visuals, music, dance, and dramatic play. Certainly it enhanced individual experience and the reflections after the play were powerful. Some of the students decided to use dramatic art as part of the sermons especially for the youth ministries. Teaching biblical wisdom literature can be a very interesting. It is one part of the Bible that is conspicuously ignored, but the most interesting of all if handled very well. I have been surprised that many students have grown to love biblical wisdom as years roll by. In Wisdom Literature as in dramatic plays, our memories heighten. It makes people recall biblical statements and stories with fun. Recalling easily also enhances scripture to be kept in the hearts. Dramatic acts double our potential to share the gospel. It attracts and sinks so well in most kinds of soils that surround the heart. It makes people feel happy and a sense of well-being. They enable people to see the world in different ways. It can be likened to a three-dimensional impressionist painting; an action movie. They may speak to the heart than the mind.

Through drama, I have come to appreciate and identify with a new way to understand wisdom. Thanks to my students and my institution for giving me the opportunity to try new pedagogical ways. By dramatizing the sayings of Qoheleth, I seek to bring African proverbs alongside the voices of Ecclesiastes to make the discourse participatory and fun. The fun from dialoguing with Ecclesiastes can give space for deep thinking. It is equally possible to use humour to make a strong point. Dramatizing helps to show that imitating the steps of the book of Ecclesiastes can bring out the force of its message, and the feel of its words in the mind and heart so that all can understand better. Drama and poetry have the ability to bring untranslatability and indescribable words into real life. May I say that the neglect of wisdom is costing the world too much. I do not want to lose “my” heritage. Maybe the reader will also find something in this book and the testimonies can go on.

“Who is like the wise person? And who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom makes his face to shine, and the hardness of his face will be changed” (Ecclesiastes 8:1)

Mark S. Aidoo
October 2019

Mark S. Aidoo is a Senior Lecturer in Old Testament studies and Hebrew at Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon Ghana. He is the General Secretary of West Africa Association of Theological Institutions (WAATI), and a member of Ghana Association of Biblical Exegetes (GABES). He is the author of Shame in the Individual Lament Psalms and African Spirituality published by Peter Lang. His research interests relate to the Hebrew poetry, Old Testament interpretation, African Spirituality, Leadership, and Preaching. Mark is also an ordained minister of The Methodist Church Ghana and serves as the Probationer’s Secretary.

PART ONE
ECCLESIASTES AS AKAN DRAMA           1

PART TWO
THE CANTATA                                             9

PART 3
UNDERSTANDING THE WISDOM OF ECCLESIASTES                 67