Wole Soyinka’s Swamp Dwellers, a play built on the rural setting, is a blunt exposition of the religious hypocrisy,typical in a culturally and economically backward society in any parts of the world. Wole Soyinka, the most distinguished playwright of Africa, exposes the irreligious acts of the religious men in a very Chaucerean way.The character through which he dose it is obviously the Kadiye who reminds us about Chaucer’s religious character in his The Canterbury Tales The Summoner.
The Kadiye,the religious figure in Wole Soyinka’s Swamp Dwellers,is masterfully portaryed and is very covincing.Kadiye is portrayed in this drama as the main priest of the sawmp dwellers.Though he is a priest by his profession ,he is anything but pious.He is essentially a corrupt and self-centered person.But Kadiye is not the sole example of his type.There are many kadiyes in every part of the world.There are some hypocrites who trade religion and live on it.This typical feature of Kadiye makes him more convincing.
The physical feature of Kadiye indicates that he is more like a villain than to be a religious person.He is fat like a blood-swollen insect.He is a monstrous looking person.He is described as ’a big ,voluminous creature of about fifty.’He is smooth-faced and his head is shaved clean.He is bare above the waist and at least half of his fingers are ringed.This physical look suggests something ugly about his moral nature.Kadiye is very rich and has a good control over the swamp like a Godfather featued in the western films.Kadiye destroys people wearing the mask of religion.
The Kadiye betrays the the trust of the villagers by encouraging them to indulge in meaningless cult.The Kadiye is the priest of the Serpent.The villagers give of their harvest to the Kadiye so he can appease the serpent. No one questions where the goods go, because it is almost blasphemous to do so.
But it seems that the dramatist is very critical to the Kadiye and Kadiye’s real nature is exposed through the confrontation between the Kadiye and Igwezu. The protagonist of the play, Igwezu, an ideal son of the Swamps who is loyal to tradition, has performed all the necessary rites required by the deity to ensure a good harvest and a happy life with his wife. The impotence of this god gradually creeps into his awareness from several inexplicable mishaps that confront him, both in the city and the Swamps. In his short stay in the city to try his hands at making money, his twin brother,Awuchike, seduces his wife, contrary to the spiritual values of theSwamp. Much frustrating, he fails in his commercial enterprise.Igwezu's tragedy is more severe when he returns to the Swamps with the hope of recovering from his despair by harvesting his crops.But he discovers with utter disappointment and disbelief that the floods had ruined his farm and "the beans and the corn had made an everlasting pottage with the mud.’
Igwezu’s reliance on the omnipotence of the Serpent begins to abate on being puzzled why
he should be so righteous yet so forsaken. His contempt is explicit when he requires the Priest of the Serpent - the Kadiye, to give meaning to what seems "dark and sour.” He achieves this through a
series of clarification questions:
Igwezu: Did I not offer my goats to the Priest? …
And made it clear - that the offering was from
me? That I demanded the protection of the
heavens on me and my house, on my father
and on my mother, on my wife, land and
Kadiye: All prayers were repeated.
Igwezu: And ever since I began to till the soil did I not
give his due? Did I not bring the first lentils to
the shrine, and pour the first oil upon the altar?
Igwezu: And when the Kadiye blessed my marriage
and tied the heaven-made knot, did he not
promise long life, did he not promise
Kadiye: [Does not reply this time]
Doubts of divinity of Kadiye’s competence to save humanity from the vagaries of life are revoked in his further questions:
"If I slew the fatted calf, Kadiye, do you think the
land may breathe again? If I slew all the cattle in
the land and sacrificed every measure of
goodness, would it make any difference to our
lives, Kadiye? Would it make any difference to
The Kadiye, thus trapped and humiliated, leaves the scene threatening blood. But Igwezu's mind is now open. He has emancipated himself from the manacles of deceit, realising in a consolatory stand. "I know that we can appease the Serpent of the Swamps and kiss the Kadiye's feet, but the vapours will still rise and corrupt the tassels of the corn".Thus through the disillusionment of Igwezu the dramatist also exposes the real nature of the Kadiye.
But due to the Kadiye’s threat Igwezu has to leave the village.In this way the Kadiye brings the final tragedy to Igwezu’s life.
The Kadiye is dramatized as a very convincing character.Though the Kadiye is portrayed in a Nigerian setting,but he can be trasported to an Indian village,Bangladeshi or Irish village where the religious Sadus exploit the general people in the name of religion.