This study, the first book-length treatment of its subject, draws on a large base of elusive material and on extensive field research. It is the result of the author's wide experience of teaching and producing theatre in Africa, and of her fascination with the ways in which traditional performance forms have interacted with, or have resisted, non-indigenous modes of dramatic representation in the process of evolving into the vital theatres of the present day. A comparative historical study is offered of the three national cultures of Ethiopia, Tanganyika/Tanzania, and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Not only (scripted) drama is treated, but also theatre in the sense of the broader range of performance arts such as dance and song. The development of theatre and drama is seen against the background of centuries of cultural evolution and interaction, from pre-colonial times, through phases of African and European imperialism, to the liberation struggles and newly-won independence of the present. The seminal relationship between theatre, society and politics is thus a central focus.
Topics covered include: the function in theatre of vernacular and colonial languages; performance forms under feudal, communalist and socialist regimes; cultural militancy and political critique; the relationship of theatre to social elites and to the peasant class; state control (funding and censorship); racism and separate development in the performing arts; contemporary performance structures (amateur, professional, community and university theatre). Due attention is paid to prominent dramatists, theatre groups and theatre directors, and the author offers new insight into African perceptions of the role of the artist in the theatre, as well as dealing with the important subject of gender roles (in drama, in performance ritual, and in theatre practice). The book is illustrated with contemporary photographs.
Acknowledgements. Illustrations. Introduction. 1 THE COLONIAL THEATRE. The performance forms; Dance-drama; Drama; Orature; Pre-colonial literature; Feudalism and communalism. 2 CONFORMITY, CHRISTIANITY AND SUPPRESSION: THE EARLY COLONIAL THEATRE. ETHIOPIA. Amhara imperialism; The first plays; The Italian occupation and after. TANGANYIKA. Formation and colonization; The development of indigenous theatre forms; Colonial cultural forms; Drama. SOUTHERN RHODESIA. Colonization: from 1890 to 1965; The repression of indigenous culture; Promoting a new theatre; White theatre; White Rhodesian plays. 3 THEATRE IN LIBERATION STRUGGLES. TANGANYIKA. Political struggle; The role of culture. ETHIOPIA. The rise of political awareness; The reformist theatre; The new drama; The Creative Arts Centre; Actors and theatres. SOUTHERN RHODESIA. The armed struggle 1965-1980; The theatres of separate development; Escapism and exclusivity: the white theatre; Kind Whites and good Blacks: official African performance; Black drama groups and festivals; Liberation arts. A TIME OF HOPE: THE THEATRE OF INDEPENDENCE. TANZANIA. Nyerere, Nationalism and Ujamaa; Early post-independence theatre; The impetus of Arusha; The intellectual drama; Government sponsored theatre. ETHIOPIA. The end of an empire; The early revolutionary theatre; The PMAC and the theatre; Changing relations with government; Plays in the professional theatres. ZIMBABWE: The question of nation building; Towards a new culture; The ZIMFEP initiative; University drama; Amakhosi Theatre Productions and the Bulawayo Association of Drama Groups; Published drama. 5 DISILLUSION AND DEBATE: THE CONTEMPORARY THEATRES. TANZANIA. The apotheosis of the one-party state? Complacency and conformity: state arts; The University and intellectual drama; Popular performance art and cultural troupes. ETHIOPIA. A government in crisis; A new beginning? The Theatre Arts Department; The Amateur Arts Programme; State control and the professional theatres; Plays of the Eighties; Theatre under the transitional government. ZIMBABWE. A problem of credibility; State attitudes to the performing arts; Funding the theatres; The independent arts; The contemporary plays. Annex A: Informants. Bibliography. Index.