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The Negro-African Theater Beyond its Traditional Boundaries: Development, Functions and New Challenges

Babacar Mboup, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The goal of this study is threefold. At first, it aims at describing the development of Francophone Negro-African Theater from a dynamic point of view by delineating the different phases of its development. Next, the study investigates the different functions assigned to the dramatic art in francophone Africa. Finally, it opens up new avenues for research in the field of African theater. The development of African Francophone Theater has not been a harmonious process. The colonization of Africa by the Europeans interrupted its growth and introduced new forms of drama that were in blatant contrast with local theater. These new forms of drama threatened even the mere existence of indigenous theater. The introduction of French education and the subsequent influences of the teacher training schools, William Ponty in Senegal and Bingerville in Ivory Coast, are of paramount importance to the creation of literary drama and its development in Francophone Africa that will play a pivotal role in the process of decolonization and nation building. After the Second World War, playwrights divorced themselves from the William Ponty ideology and began questioning the legitimacy of the colonial order. In the euphoria of independences, they celebrate the African resistants and praise the new political leaders. But disappointment soon put an end to the euphoria when they realize that the new African leaders were not living up to their promises. The playwrights commit themselves to denounce and combat injustice wherever it manifests itself even at the highest level of government. However the role of theater as agent of change is limited by its elitist characteristics. Plays are written and performed in French, a language unknown to the majority of the illiterate masses who end up creating their own theater in indigenous dialects. This indigenous drama becomes very popular in inner cities where it voices the concerns of the urban masses. At the same time a revolutionary form of theater addresses the development issues of the people in rural areas. This study acknowledges its own limitations and hopes to encourage new avenues for more research into the field of Francophone African drama.

Subject Area

African literature|Theater|Black studies

Recommended Citation

Mboup, Babacar, "The Negro-African Theater Beyond its Traditional Boundaries: Development, Functions and New Challenges" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3165627.