n Latin American Report - The significance of the 'decolonial' epistemology in the study of African theatre

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-6060



When Africa was colonised in the 1890s by the British, French and the Portuguese, they quickly introduced various media such as films and theatre to Africans that justified conquest and with the ultimate aim of projecting the Europeans as a superior and God's chosen race. The colonisers aim was to undermine African confidence in themselves in African cultural achievements, religion and way of life. After seeing these films and theatrical performances, for instance, Africans were supposed to renounce their traditional values in favour of the new values of Christian individualism or European culture as propounded by the modernisation theory of development. Thus, through various media, European colonial governments managed to reshape, control and dominate the minds of Africans so that they would become compliant with colonial 'exploitative' economic interests. In order to move out of this colonial mindset or to emancipate African minds from mental slavery or historical traumas caused by colonialism, this paper argues that decolonisation of the African mind, as Ngugi (1987) puts it is inevitable. It is therefore the aim of this article to demonstrate the importance of decolonial epistemology in the decolonisation of the African mind by not totally or completely rejecting modernity, but by only becoming masters of their destiny through theatre. Driskill (2003) highlighted that the colonisation of Africa culminated in 'kinesthetic wounding' and the only way that these wounds can be healed or reversed is through decolonisation which is a 'kinesthetic healing'. Thus, the ultimate argument of this article is that since most African people still carry the wounds of the past in their bodies; it is only through the incorporation of the 'decolonial' epistemic perspectives or thoughts in theatre that a 'reclamation of individual and communal body, memory and story' (Butterwick and Selman 2003) of Africans will be achieved, thus, enabling a continuance of African oral traditions and imaginations of new stories for a decolonised future. In other words, if theatre is to powerfully connect mind, body and emotions or to deconstruct oppressive relations or mindsets imbued in African people's mindsets during colonialism it has to transform these African audiences through various decolonisation strategies which are incorporated within the decolonial epistemology or epistemic perspectives.

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