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Theatre For Development In Africa Essay

4788 words - 20 pages

In Africa today, Theatre-for-Development (TfD) is widely viewed as both an effective and appropriate medium for communicating development-orientated information at the grassroots level. Capable of functioning on multiple levels, theatre encompasses many types of learning ranging from the transmission of practical skills through to the advancing of political and social consciousness. As such, various styles of theatre are being used by both government and non-government agencies as a tool for tackling a multiplicity of development issues, including but not limited to literacy, health, family planning, agriculture, sanitation, human rights, environmental education, and the establishment of ...view middle of the document...

Forms including storytelling, dance, drama, masking, puppetry, singing and music have been used across the generations as a means of communicating ideas and values, as a way of teaching important behavioral lessons, and for passing down history (Bourgault, 2003). As such, theatre which incorporates well-established cultural customs such as oral communication and social learning through performance mirror existing communication practices, uses skills that community members already possess and validates long-standing art forms (Abah, 1990). TfD brings people together and creates an arena where a community can engage in discussion about issues and difficulties, whilst simultaneously providing an occasion for communal entertainment. Furthermore, the face-to-face dialogue element enables people to respond immediately to issues raised and involves everyone in problem solving discussions (Etherton, 1982; Mlama, 1991; Abah, 1998; Morrision, 2003). Theatre can also be more effective than other media forms at reaching people living rurally, who for reasons such as remoteness, poverty or illiteracy, are not well exposed to development messages conveyed through other mass communication channels (Morrision,2003).

The importance of media as a means of transmitting development agendas to the masses has long been acknowledged by government and aid agencies. Film, television, the printed press and radio have all been incorporated into awareness raising campaigns throughout Africa with varying degrees of success. In the modernization approach, which focuses on the diffusion of innovation, these mediums have been favoured over theatre because of opinion that they are the best way to communicate with the largest amount of people in the quickest time (Musa, 1998). Some of these mass communication development drives, such as those on forestation, immunization or family planning, have made strong impacts without involving any participation from the target audience. However, many working in the field of development communication now believe that the transmission of information alone is not enough in most circumstances to elicit the level of consciousness crucial for peoples’ deep-rooted and enduring participation in development action (Mlama, 1991). This viewpoint is associated with a growing realisation that a major reason for the failure of previous development strategies is because the people most affected by policy implementation have been denied the opportunity to have a say in their own social, political and economic welfare. Development communication has tended to be based on a one-way flow of policy diktats issued by state and development agencies designed to inform and persuade supposed beneficiaries of the advantages of adopting change. Such impersonal and alienating approaches marginalize long-standing indigenous forms of communication and imply that local people are unable to think critically about their own situation (Mlama, 1991; Musa, 1998. As...

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