October 5, 2011

Present-day African theatre forms

I came across this article about present-day African theatrical forms while doing research on a few things. It's an intriguing read, especially in comparison and contrast to discussions about devised theatre that crop up from time to time.

I'm not yet sure how I'll relate this to the poiesis as a whole, but I do know that I am reluctant to do what's always been done with African culture and limit analysis and engagement to specific forms as opposed to digging a bit deeper. For instance, I wouldn't want to end up focusing overmuch on masks and dance -- the predictably "exotic" elements -- while ignoring the different ways African cultures conceive and construct reality. I'm far more fascinated by, say, the impact of a diunital worldview upon the ways people of African descent construct and interpret story.


  1. Been thinking about this one, and I wonder if the initial post on forms skims the surface? There are so many different cultures and forms that it's pretty difficult to synthesize them, let alone sum them up as a pan-African form/aesthetic. Most of my experience reading/seeing is either Nigerian, Senegalese, Ghanaian, South African, Algerian and/or Morrocan. That still leaves out tons of cultures and writers. I'd love to hear your follow up.

  2. I didn't really expect the article to do more than it did.

    True, it's likely impossible to create a sort of "generic African aesthetic," due to the sheer diversity of cultures and languages. Yet the same thing can be said for Asian theatrical forms, which are often lumped together as Eastern (this usually means China and Japan plus a mention of a few other places) despite how the differences often outweigh the similarities.

    Ideally, of course, it would be great to talk about specific traditions and link them to specific cultures. But I think it's also worth looking for commonalities in (West) African cultures, particularly for those of us creating theatre in the African diaspora.

    I find that there is great value in being able to recognize a continuation or adaptation of a tradition that has previously been thought lost or destroyed. While I don't think the article is arguing that what it presents is an end point, I think it can be a useful starting point, especially for those who wish to find their own connections to these traditions.