African Theatres and Performances

By Osita Okagbue

© 2007 – Routledge

208 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415540858
pub: 2012-03-14
US Dollars$56.95
Hardback: 9780415304535
pub: 2007-07-03
US Dollars$120.00

About the Book

African Theatres & Performances looks at four specific performance forms in Africa and uses this to question the tendency to employ western frames of reference to analyze and appreciate theatrical performance. The book examines:

  • masquerade theatre in Eastern Nigeria
  • the trance and possession ritual theatre of the Hausa of Northern Nigeria
  • the musical and oral tradition of the Mandinka of Senegal
  • comedy and satire of the Bamana in Mali.

Osita Okagbue describes each performance in detail and discusses how each is made, who it is made by and for, and considers the relationship between maker and viewer and the social functions of performance and theatre in African societies. The discussions are based on first-hand observation and interviews with performers and spectators.

African Theatres & Performances gives a fascinating account of these practices, carefully tracing the ways in which performances and theatres are unique and expressive of their cultural context.


'African Theatres and Performances is perhaps the first book by an African scholar to assert its prerogative to apply the term African to a specific tribal or regional performance tradition without feeling the need to fulfil the post-imperial requirement of felicitating with regional traditions elsewhere on the continent. The book is a bold and brilliant intervention in cultural and performance studies on Africa, and I hope that it will help to refocus African theatre pedagogy and inspire other focused reading of Africa's vast performance forms and traditions.' - Platform

'The descriptions of the particular events attended for the writing of this book are admirable in their clarity, including fascinating details…Readers are thus treated to a description of the amazing jifa leaps of the Bori performers, and the author takes them into the environment of the Jaliya Balunde…where the energy of the event virtually leaps off the page. Okagbue convincingly demonstrates how vibrant, popular, meaningful and contemporary these performance forms remain for the communities concerned… This book is thus a delightful, accessible and most useful updating of an area of performance study that has been under-researched in recent years.' - Theatre Research International

'An original contribution to the field of performance research… a fascinating study… African Theatres and Performances offers incisive reflection on the notions of darama, theatre and performance.' - Studies of Theatre and Performance

About the Author

Dr Osita Okagbue is Lecturer in the Drama department of Goldsmiths College, University of London.

About the Series

Theatres of the World

Theatres of the World is a series that will bring close and instructive contact with makers of performances from around the world. Each book looks at the performance traditions and current practices of a specific region, focusing on a small number of individual theatrical events. Mixing first-hand observation, interviews with performance makers and in-depth analyses, these books show how performance practices are expressive of their social, historical and cultural contexts. They consider the ways in which theatre artists worldwide can enjoy and understand one another's work.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism