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Africa Drama and Theater

Traditional theater

In sub-Saharan Africa, theater has been played for centuries. In addition to theatrical elements in religious rituals, there are independent theater traditions, e.g. the yoruba people known since the 17th century, the apaman, the kama -tlon of the bamano people, the puppet theater of kwagh-hir and the Madagascar mpilalao. Common to all is the structure of several short, alternating comic and serious dramas, improvised around a synopsis, and a large element of mime, music and dance. The performances usually take place outdoors, e.g. in a square or on a farm. No strict aim is made for the spectators. This still-alive theater has entertaining, didactic, political and some religious functions.

Africa Drama and Theater

Modern theater in domestic languages

With few exceptions, writing was introduced through mission and colonization. Islamization in the north and east hampered the theater. France only encouraged French aesthetics and literature in French. Britain, on the other hand, supported literature in domestic languages. Therefore, the theater developed faster in the English-speaking countries, especially in West Africa. Western theater was integrated with traditional, and so Concert Parties emerged in the 1920s in Ghana and the Yoruba Opera in the 1940s in Nigeria. This type of theater is cabaret-like and is more visual than verbal. It has historical, political and social themes and has great popular support. Even vernacular speech theater is available. Since the behaviors can be understood by a whole people, they have great impact. Governments therefore use the theater for information and propaganda purposes, often with the help of radio and TV. The theater is also used as a political vehicle against the governing authorities, who sometimes prohibit conduct and imprison writers.

Modern theater in domestic languages

Theater in English and French

Already in the 1950s, two universities had theater institutions, which became centers for research and practical theater and a model for new institutions. In Ibadan, Nigeria, Africa's foremost playwrights Wole Soyinka, John P. Clark, Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan and Bode Sowande have been students and teachers. To Legon in Ghana came both new and established playwrights and directors, including several women, eg. Efua Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo. Among other things, Tighter colonial conditions and subsequent political development have hampered the growth of the theater in East Africa. Prominent playwrights are John Ruganda, Murry Carlin and Robert Serumaga from Uganda and Ngugi wa Thiong'o from Kenya. The situation in South Africa is making the theater even more difficult. The musical theater has been particularly active there in the 1960s and 1970s.

The French cultural view isolated the African elite, which sought a new identity in the négritude movement. This one, however, valued the lyrics most highly. It was not until the 1970s that theater and drama grew, especially in Congo and Zaire, and developed into a total theater. Bernard Dadié, Ivory Coast, is the most theatrical French-language playwright. Others are Guillaume Oyônô-Mbia, Cameroon, and Cheik Ndao, Senegal.

Theater in English and French


In tragedies, historical material is used to depict pre-colonial times and the encounter with Europe. French-language dramatists glorify the story, such as Ndao in "L'exil d'Albouri" (1967) and Dadié in "Béatrice du Congo" (1970), while the English-speakers also see the negative and warn of repetition, e.g. Soyinka in "A Dance of the Forests" (1963) and Rotimi in "Kurunmi" (1971). For example, East Africa's militant freedom struggle is depicted, for example. in Kenneth Watene's "My Son for My Freedom" (1973). An important theme is the relationship of individual society, e.g. in Sutherland's "Edufa" (1969), Aidoo's "Anowa" (1970) and Soyinka's "Death and the King's Horseman" (1975).

As in traditional theater, comedy and satire are used to criticize social phenomena. Thus, conflicts between traditional and Western values ​​are exemplified, for example. in Soyinka's "The Lion and the Jewel" (premiered in 1959, published in 1963) and Dadié's "Monsieur Thôgô-gnini" (1970). Generational conflicts are dealt with in Oyônô-Mbia's "Trois prétendants, un mari" ("Three friars, a husband", 1962), JC de Graft's "Sons and Daughters" (1964) and Guy Menga's "L'oracle" (1969). The conflict between land and city is addressed in Patrice Ndedi-Penda's "Le fusil" ('The Gun', 1970). Abuse of power and corruption are held hostage, among other things. in Soyinka's "A Play of Giants" (1984), Sarif Easmon's "The New Patriots" (1965) and Osofisan's "Who's Afraid of Solarin?" (1978).

The best dramas lay the foundations for a theatrical work of art based on African theater conventions. Therefore, knowledge of the conventions is important for understanding. And with increasing knowledge, our appreciation of African drama will change.


The development of a film industry in Africa differs greatly between countries and depends on their political, social and economic development. Only Egypt had a film industry to speak of during the first half of the 20th century. Otherwise, it was about sporadic, individual film productions, often after education in the colonial countries and with money from them.

An early example is Senegalese Paul Soumanou Vierya (1925–87), who was educated at the French Institute des Hautes Études Ciné. With financing from France, he produced the short film "Afrique-sur-Seine" in 1955, which inspired many in sub-Saharan Africa to start making their own films. Vierya was also early in building the Fédération Pan-Africaine des Cinéastes (FEPACI, founded in 1969), a pan-African director's organization aimed at stimulating local film production.

With the independence of the African states in the 1960s and 1970s, a national film production was built up in several countries, such as Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Other countries, such as Morocco, Tanzania, Congo and Ethiopia, have had weak development without continuity.

For a long time, the African film industry was also hampered by the effects of colonialism. For their education, directors and film workers had to go to Europe and the United States. There you often had to place laboratory work and post-production as sound laying and mixing. It made the films more expensive and inhibited their own technological and artistic development in the field.

In the same way, distribution has disadvantaged African films, as it is dominated by French and American companies, which also own cinema chains on the continent. In addition to the US, the cinema range has come from Italy, France and Hong Kong and India (Bollywood). However, this is changing with the spread of various video formats, such as VHS, DVD and Blu-ray as well as the transition to digital movie viewing. However, the outcome of the development is still uncertain.

For decades, French-speaking Africa has artistically dominated the attention of international press and film festivals. Some of the most profiled filmmakers include Ousmane Sembène, Mahama Johnson Traoré (1942–2010) and the ethnographer Safi Faye (born 1943) - all from Senegal. The latter and Sarah Maldoror (born 1938), based in Angola, are Africa's only female filmmaker with international reputation.

Another important film country is Niger with filmmakers such as Moustapha Alassanne (born 1942) and Oumarou Ganda (1935–81). Both have made important contributions to the African film culture, as well as for example. Bassori Timité (born 1933), Fadika Kramo-Lanciné (born 1948, both Ivory Coast), With Hondo (Mauritania), Jean-Pierre Dikongué-Pipa (born 1940, Cameroon), Souleymane Cissé (Mali), Gaston Kaboré (born 1951), Idrissa Ouedraogo (1954–2018), both Burkina Faso) and Raymond Rajannarivelo (born 1955, Madagascar). The most important meeting point for African filmmakers since 1969 has been FESPACO, the Pan-African Film Festival in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

African filmmakers are happy to address social and political problems with the roots of colonialism. Adama Drabos (born 1948) "Ta Dona" (1991) from Mali and Moufida Tlatlis (born 1947) "The Silence of the Palace" (1994) from Tunisia addresses issues of education, women's rights and environmental problems. Other major challenges for modern Africa are AIDS, which includes dealt with in Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembgas (born 1959) "Everyone's Child (1996) and South African Oliver Schmitz (born 1960)" Life Above All "(2010).

Despite the positive development in French-speaking countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali, it is in the English-speaking countries such as Nigeria and South Africa that the African film will flourish. See Countryaah for population data of Africa. One example is the emergence in the 1990s of Nollywood, an extensive production of direct-to-video films in Nigeria that was recorded and distributed by a rapidly growing film industry with thousands of employees and many millions in revenue.

For decades, South African film companies and film funds have co-financed several international productions. "Hotel Rwanda" (2004) and "District 9" (2009) as well as self-produced successes such as the Oscar-winning "Tsotsi" (2005).

A film with a Swedish connection is the Ethiopian drama documentary "Atleten" (2009) about the marathon runner Abebe Bikila in which actor Dag Malmberg plays a supporting role.

Countries in Africa
  1. Algeria
  2. Angola
  3. Benin
  4. Botswana
  5. Burkina Faso
  6. Burundi
  7. Cameroon
  8. Cabo Verde
  9. Central African Republic
  10. Chad
  11. Comoros
  12. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  13. Djibouti
  14. Egypt
  15. Equatorial Guinea
  16. Eritrea
  17. Eswatini
  18. Ethiopia
  19. Gabon
  20. Gambia
  21. Ghana
  22. Guinea
  23. Guinea-Bissau
  24. Ivory Coast
  25. Kenya
  26. Lesotho
  27. Liberia
  28. Libya
  29. Madagascar
  30. Malawi
  31. Mali
  32. Mauritania
  33. Mauritius
  34. Morocco
  35. Mozambique
  36. Namibia
  37. Niger
  38. Nigeria
  39. Republic of the Congo
  40. Rwanda
  41. Sao Tome and Principe
  42. Senegal
  43. Seychelles
  44. Sierra Leone
  45. Somalia
  46. South Africa
  47. South Sudan
  48. Sudan
  49. Tanzania
  50. Togo
  51. Tunisia
  52. Uganda
  53. Western Sahara
  54. Zambia
  55. Zimbabwe

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