Space and character dynamics in selected African dramatic texts

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Moyo, Mwale Bether
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This research aimed at exploring the relationship between space and characters in selected African dramatic works which include: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Dilemma of a Ghost, Ngugi and Ngugi’s I Will Marry When I Want, Masiye’s The Lands of Kazembe, and Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead. The research was based on the understanding that while many scholars have discussed setting in their works, not many looked at the relationship between setting and characters. Further, setting which has three components including time, place and mood or environment has not been broken down into the three components so that they be discussed independently. The focus of this research is on space, diversifying the perspective of place discussed under setting in relation to character. The research methodology applied was qualitative, embracing close textual analysis through the application of two main theories to the texts. The theories used in the study are Porteous’ (1985) Geographical Interpretation of Imaginative Literature which studies human-place interactions. Porteous devises four cells in matrix form which summarises the human place interactions namely home-insider, away-outsider, home-outsider and away-insider. The study was also informed by Breakwell’s Identity Process Theory, a Psychology based theory concerned with the formation of identity. Breakwell identifies four prime guidance principles which are distinctiveness, the desire for continuity, self-efficacy, and self-esteem as being key to the processes of accommodation/assimilation and evaluation which determine the establishment of identities. The research study found that in the four texts that were investigated, information was presented in both concrete and abstract space. The study discovered that based on various reasons, characters create different spaces at different points in time. It is noted that in the texts, concrete spaces are created mainly due to the characters’ need to occupy spaces that represent their values and offer comfort and contentment. On the other hand, abstract spaces are created mainly through narration and imagination and this is motivated by the characters’ desires to inspire the audience to experience through the eye of their minds, events that occurred in the past. Finally, the study shows that the identity of characters is established based on the spaces that these characters occupy. Furthermore, characters behave differently based on the different spaces that they occupy. The study concludes by stating that indeed there exists a relationship between space and character in the texts investigated. The study proposes that other scholars could delve into issues of Space and character falsity in drama: can characters present fake identities and why? Others can explore space and character portrayal in poetry, while others could also look at use of ‘Space’ in the vernacular narratives or drama in comparison to English texts.
African Drama(English) , African Dramatic texts