Through choreographic ethnography, archival research and performance analysis, my study seeks to examine the role of rural women as cultural producers in areas of popular theatre and storytelling in post-colonial Botswana. I investigate how popular theater operates as a tool for both top-down communications about state-identified concerns as well as community mobilization for marginalized members of society such as women in rural areas.I critically examine the Vision 2016 Program, which informs some of the Botswana government's aspirations, including the protection of women, health issues and funding theatre. The government often funds popular theatre companies to communicate the Vision. I therefore use the Vision to highlight connections and contradictions between policies on the proclaimed community development and the actual practice on the ground. The question I ask is: who benefits from these collaborations; the government, the theatre companies or the communities themselves? I argue that since the 1970s, the use of popular theatre has gained popularity in Botswana and Africa in general. Grounded in Freire and Boal's theorizations and traditional African (and Tswana) performance practices, African theatre scholars and practitioners have hailed popular theatre as a response to a history that has undermined people's genuine participation in development processes. Yet I claim that in some instances communities are not in control of this medium as their concerns are lost within homogenizing national discourses of state-funded popular theatre intervention projects. Through participant observations on and off stage, emphasizing attunement to social interactions of three companies - Youth Health Organization (YOHO) headquarters theatre group, Mama Theatre group and Moremogolo Extension Theatre Trust - I maintain that by turning oppressed communities into passive objects of superficial, one-dimensional messages infused with colonial and patriarchal formations, some Batswana theatre practitioners undermine the very goals of popular theatre. The study points to alternative sites within and outside the confines of popular theatre where subversive discourses of oppressed communities (groups and individuals) are located. As the first study to locate the role of women in popular theatre, the dissertation contests dominant narratives and questions how women in rural areas still manage to tactically engage in issues of importance to them.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisors: Sonja Kuftinec, Cindy Garcia. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 292 pages.
Tshane, Pabalelo Gaolatlhe.
Well-being performances in Botswana: centering women's roles in popular theatre.
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