In the general performance sense, a recitation refers to "the act of reciting from memory, or a formal reading of verse or other writing before an audience" (see for example "Recitation" in Wikipedia)
In older usage the term "recite" can also refer to the more act of describing or listing items in a series.
In South Africa and the British commonwealth, as in 18th and 19th century Britain, was long used to refer to the educational practice of reciting poems and pieces of prose from memory as outlined above, inter alia as a means to train the memory - in class work and examinations for example - and as home entertainment. (In Afrikaans environments the term "resiteer" or "voordra" were used in such cases.)
The practice also , and more formally on stage by trained performers. In the latter case it was of course an outflow of and closely related to voice training and the teaching and practice of elocution, as well as the notion of a recital (in music), and a central feature of any eistedfodd. Other related terms include and ultimately even performance poetry.
Though the term has lost much of its coinage in South Africa today, since the whole notion of reciting memorised verse has lost its function in the teaching of language and literature, the practice continues as a key element of South African theatre and performance, with many plays and performances being created utilising passages of verse and prose from established authors, or new verse being presented in oral fashion and/or as part of a performance.
In this sense the ongoing interest in notion of recitation is in some cases closely allied to and an outflow of the oral culture of Southern Africa, which - with the dance culture - constitutes one of the fundamental elements of the so-called "African Theatre" , "Black Theatre" and Improvisational Theatre of the 1970s and later.
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page