AFRICAN THEATER: ENTERTAINING N’ TEACHING SINCE ‘BEFORE BC’

Today has been one of the worst days of my life. My boss is breathing down my neck for some impossible workload that not even the gods could finish, my girlfriend is angry with me for something that I allegedly did and so, I am not in any rush to go back home. My only option is either the club or the theater, downing a couple of Jack Daniels will help me forget my woes but my wallet can only support the basic Konyagi and due to my deep attachment to my throat I decide to go to the theatre and watch a play entitled The Good the Bad and the Ugly side of Mambotele

I bought my ticket gleefully as it favored the situation of my wallet, I sat in my designated seat and waited for the play to start. After observing the principle of African timing the play started with a monologue from the titular character Mr. Mambotele, “a minister, politician, businessman, ordained pastor, doctor, soon to be president and most importantly father of 15 robust children”. This self-description made me chuckle offering me an appetizer of what was to come, and it didn’t disappoint. Amazing would be a gross understatement of the play. I laughed, guffawed and nearly convulsed I shed a tear or two especially when Mr. Mambotele’s wife was thrown out of the house, for the two hours I was there I had forgotten all my woes and deeply engrossed in Mr. Mambotele’s life

African theatre has been at the pinnacle of telling the African story, the culture and mostly importantly what it means and feels to be truly African. The history of African theater is as old as time itself, evolving over the ages with the diverse interactions of various ethnics groups. It survived the colonial times emerging even stronger as it offered hope. African theater has been used by playrights such as Ngugi wa Thiongo to champion democracy, and Micere Githae Mugo to champion the role of women in the independence struggle .Such is the complexity of African theater that it cannot be categorized into either traditional or modern.

The richness of African theater lies in the fact that it incorporates all of the popular forms of drama that exist: ritual and ceremony, dance and mime, modern play, storytelling, puppetry and ritual drama which incorporates actors, plots, dialog, rehearsals, props, costumes and makeup; making for true and undefiled art.

Great literary giants of Africa from Woye Soyinka to Ngugi wa Thiongo have played a great role in the growth of African theater, of course we have to mention the great Osofisan, the colossus of Nigerian theatre in terms of output and popularity over the last decades of the 20th century. His plays have been frequently staged in Nigeria and Ghana, and in Britain and the U.S. His dramaturgy is characterized by provocative open-endings, as in Once upon Four Robbers (first performed 1978), where, at the end, the audience is asked to vote on whether the armed robbers should be punished or released. Osofisan said that he wished to speak to a young educated audience, as he felt that they were the people who could revolutionize society. In fact every African nation boasts of a great playwright.

The theater offers an experience like no other, what makes it to stand out is that there is always a lesson to be learnt and not just one lesson but multiple lessons depending on your interpretation of the play. The Beauty of African Theater is something all Africans must behold.

 

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