Zambian theatre and the direction it has taken since independence

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Findlay, Victoria
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This study sets out to examine critically the direction that Zambian theatre has taken since independence and to draw attention to the problems and contradictions in its development. Particular divisions that exist within Zambian theatre, such as that between the Theatre Association of Zambia (TAZ), and the Zambia National Theatre Arts Association (ZANTAA), are taken as a pointer to the deeper cultural issues in a post-colonial context, the aim being to highlight ideological divisions over the question as to which direction theatre in Zambia should be taking. The methodological approach used is both historical and interpretive. It outlines historical events along the development of Zambian theatre and also attempts to analyse the way Zambian theatre is developing within the context of Zambian Society. To this end, it is a survey, rather than a study and does not seek to prove any hypothesis. In the final chapter, however, the study offers some conclusions and perspectives on the future direction of Zambian Theatre. The material gathered is based on interviews and correspondence with prominent dramatic figures on the Zambian theatrical scene. Printed material such as journals, periodicals, reviews, newspapers and papers written or presented by persons with a keen Interest in theatre are often referred to. In addition to these, books on theatre and drama, seminar papers, theses and unpublished papers, and minutes and other materials available from theatre groups and theatre houses have also been examined. The main objective is to discover the reasons for the relatively slow development of theatre in Zambia with regard to the production of a distinctly and authentic Zambian theatre, and an internationally recognized body of written drama, or any playwright of stature. Special attention is paid to the accurate mapping of Zambian theatre-history, and the development of a theatrical ideology, and the growth of indigenous theatre groups and articulate spokesmen for Zambian theatre. Hence in the final analysis, the undeclared aim of this study has been to promote Zambian theatre by offering a critical historical evaluation, complemented by some recommendations and suggestions in the light of the problems and contradictions examined. The first chapter very briefly examines the development of theatre in Zambia from colonial times to the post-colonial period, and shows the extent to which foreign influences became divisive factors. Here focus is on different theatre forms including for example indigenous para-dramatic forms in pre-colonial and colonial Zambia, where dance and drama were fused together, and also on how far indigenous traditions were transformed with the coming of colonialism. The chapter also covers the pre-independence period and the period immediately after independence in an attempt to show albeit very briefly, the pre-independence theatre developments as well as the trends that emerged consequent to independence. The second chapter looks at early or "other" national oriented theatre experiments, Zambia Arts Trust (ZAT), Popular Theatre experiments such as that undertaken by Chikwakwa, the Zambia Cultural Services and the role played by Edwin Manda, Zambia Dance Company (ZADACO) and Pat Maddy, Bazamai and Masautso Phiri, Theatre Association of Zambia (TAZ) and Kabwe Kasoma, and Chikwakwa and the University Dramatic Society (UNZADRAMS) and Michael Etherton. The second part of the chapter examines the origins of the wrangle between the expatriate dominated theatre, TAZ, and the Zambians fighting for the establishment of "indigenouj Zambian theatre. It studies the events that led to the establishment of Zambia National Theatre Association (ZANTAA) and studies the attempts to break away from the "little theatre" hegemony. The TAZ-ZANTAA "split" is seen as a kind of symptom or "flashpoint" that crystallized the issue of cultural imperialism versus the development of a "truly" "authentic" national theatre. Behind the TAZZANTAA split are deeper issues that are brought to light. Chapter three examines the influence and expansion of Popular Theatre experiments such as that of Chikwakwa Travelling Theatre and Theatre for Development (TD), and the Chalimbana and NRDC (National Resources Development College) events. A comparison is made with the Kamiirithu event which took place in Kenya, in order to highlight the inadequacies of the Chikwakwa movement and TD in Zambia. Furthermore the chapter examines indigenous non-institutionalized theatre clubs, such as Tikwiza and mentions the emergence of other groups, such as the Zambia National Service Theatre Group, (ZANASE), Kanyama Production Unit and others. It also makes note of the moves undertaken by the little theatre as a direct response to the movement towards "Zambianization" in theatre. The chapter ends by examining the role played by the Department of Cultural Services and the Party and its Government in theatre, where a very brief comparison is made with Ethiopia specifically to show the great need for the authorities to make conscious deliberate policies concerning the performing arts so that this area may be regarded with equal seriousness as say politics or even economics. Chapter four is centred around the year 1984, critically studying the views held by TAZ, ZANTAA and the Party, (UNIP), concerning the decision to merge the two major theatre bodies. The emergence of new indigenous theatre clubs that were only mentioned in chapter three such as The Fringe Theatre, Kanyama, ZANASE and others, and Zambian playwrights and their works are generally evaluated here. Finally the chapter ends by giving a personal over¬view of the whole theatrical movement in Zambia.
Theatre--Zambia , Performing Arts--Zambia