Theatre in Education in Southern Africa

The title of Julius Heinicke's study, "Theatre in Education in Southern Africa", conjures many connotations, some of which have a bitter aftertaste: Theatre for Development, Applied Theatre, HIV/AIDS, NGOs, Aid for Developing Countries … Theatre in Education is met with a critical eye not only because it is often associated with injustice, social challenges, and illness, but also because the term 'development' – and other concepts connected with it – is deeply implicated in (neo)colonial power structures.

Nevertheless, in the last few years, Theatre in Education in southern Africa has departed significantly from typical international 'development' strategies, first and foremost in projects realized by local organizations, such as the Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo. In these cases, theatre practitioners develop new forms and methods that engage issues of concern to local children and teens and combine aesthetic strategies and techniques from different theatrical traditions. Cont Mhlanga, from the Amakhosi Theatre, describes its Theatre for Community Program as follows: "The concept is rooted [in the] belief that theatre, by its nature, is cultural as it involves song and dance, ceremonial rituals, the society and people and therefore becomes a way of life. It finds support from the fact that the continent of Africa has a long history of sending messages through drama and plays and through theatre performances, the work of African poets and actors has challenged policies and human right abuses" (

Although recent studies analyse the social impetus of this kind of theatre, most do not focus on aesthetic questions. This study, however, will argue that aesthetics play an especially important role in the success and the impact of Theatre in Education. With this orientation in mind, the project will focus on the following questions: Which elements from different theatrical and performance traditions are being used? How are they combined? What socio-political interests and strategies are masked by these theatre projects? Are these interests and strategies also confronted by the use and combination of different aesthetic techniques?