Cultured action theatre in selected regions of anglophone and francophone Cameroon
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This study is primarily concerned with notions of identity and conceptions of development in Cameroonian village, city and national theatre performances, as well as audience responses to them. What I call 'Cultural Action Theatre' is different in many respects from Theatre for Development: the latter is dominated by theatre activists, is short-lived and involves enormous cost and organisation; the former is produced by members of a community, is long-lived and less costly. The messages in performances are analysed and given meanings by the audience, whose responses are determined by contemporary political events. These events also affect the nature of theatre performances. Performances suggest that Cameroonians are dissatisfied with the economic and political relationship between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon and between Cameroon and developed countries. The study reveals that Cultural Action Theatre is used by oppressed people (e.g. women) to convey messages to their superiors (men, chiefs and politicians), and that oppressed groups produce more theatre than privileged groups. Disadvantaged Anglophone theatre practitioners use a direct style to convey practical problems whereas Francophones use a subtle style to express predominantly philosophical issues. This theatre deals with issues of local, regional and national identity and also with political leadership and morality. The choice of a particular language in any given performance is also crucial in engendering different cultural and political identities. This study argues that to mobilise people for action, a play must appeal to their sense of identity and to portray the advantages that would arise from their action. Theatre practitioners at all levels in Cameroon are concerned with different causes of national underdevelopment and hence conceive of the notion and the practice of development from different angles. The main body of the thesis is divided into two parts. The introduction to the thesis briefly describes the geography of Cameroon, the historical influences on the domains of education, society, economy and politics, and on the Anglophone and Francophone zones of Cameroon, and it discusses terminologies and concepts and my methodology. Part one consists of two chapters. Chapter one describes village performances in selected regions in Anglophone and Francophone zones. Chapter two is concerned with city performances in the respective selected zones. Part two, chapter 3-6, concentrates on national performances. Chapter three describes political leaders and development in Anglophone and Francophone National performances. Chapter four focuses on women and their role in national performances. Chapter five examines cultural and political identities in national performances. Chapter six is concerned with morality, ethics and national sentiments in national performances. The conclusion summarises my findings.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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