African theatre

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African theatre usually refers to theatre and performance forms and works deriving from the African continent.

For the term as the name of a specific performance venue in South Africa, see the entry on The African Theatre.

African Theatre

The first and perhaps most important observation to make, given the variety, size and cultural diversity of the African continent is a question one may ask about "African theatre" (or "African performance"), namely "What Africa are you talking about?" It is one often asked by a number of commentators, one of the more critical being the Nigerian born author and academic Kole Omotoso (See for example Hutchison and Omotoso. 1995.) The fact is that there are a multitude of "Africas", each with its own particular cultural, social, political, economic, ethical and other characteristics - and ipso facto, its own traditions, conventions and functions of and for theatrical performance.

The second obeservation has to do with the rather dated notion that Africa did not have a tradition of theatre (or the idea of theatre), and that many African languages did not have a word for it. This stance assumes that theatre - as a cultural practice - was brought to the continent in the period of colonization by European settlers. But this belief is this is patently absurd, for it totally ignores the nature of theatre and performance as we see them today, as well as the growing archaeological evidence. For example, it is widely believed that the first human beings almost certainly came from the continent, and these peoples (e.g. the San in Southern Africa) had a long narrative and dance tradition, as evidenced by age-old rock paintings containing drawings and other physical indications. In addition, the northern regions, notably Egypt, abutted the European continent and yet are part of Africa.

However, there is a long history of the erasure of African achievement in favour of European benevolence and beneficence, it is has long been a fundamental part of the skewed history of the arts and cultures of the continent, an attitude that to this day still requires energy and vigilance to oppose, reinterpret and rectify.

(For more on these points, see African and Theatre in Africa)

Associated or related terms

African Theatres

New Africa Theatre

African Consolidated Theatres

The African Theatre , Cape Town

The African Theatre Association[1] (AfTA)

The Working Group on African Theatre and Performance of the IFTR

The African Theatre and Performance Working Groupof the IFTR


Ravengai, Samuel 2015. African Theatre: Why it is important to transpose Western classics. The Conversation , 26 October[2]

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