Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Theatre as a tool for social transformation

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, August 9th, 2012 by Lenard Kamwendo

In Zimbabwe if one says he is into theatre what quickly come to people’s minds is the kind of theatre which is mainly performed along First Street in Harare by the likes of Kapfupi and Marubber. Without taking much from these popular street theatre performers most people refer to these performers as people who just make your miserable day a bit lighter through a good laugh. What most people miss out in the middle of the jokes is the kind of message these artists will be trying to put across. Most of the plays performed by these artists are mainly influenced by the social-economic and political events being experienced by people at the current time. Social change builds community based responses that address underlying social problems be at community, national or global level and theatre has become an effective tool for social change.  Theatre enlightens public opinion, and the after-show discussions have seen people engaging in debate on the shortcomings of the government or a service provider on issues covering service delivery, political space, human rights and good governance. Theatre provides the space for us to question assumptions and create new ideas.

The day to day issues affecting citizens have seen artists adopting theatre as a means of communication to politely question the system in an informal way. Recently many theatre performers have been put behind bars for raising awareness and engaging governments on topical issues, which an ordinary person walking the streets is afraid of asking.

One of Zimbabwe’s upcoming theatre performers and playwrights, Lloyd Nyikadzino of Savanna Trust shared with us the various ways of using theatre for social transformation at a Food for Thought function held at the US Public Affairs Section. As a performer himself Lloyd highlighted that theatre is more than a tool for entertainment but also a tool for social change. Theatre for social change has transformed theatre from being entertainment to edu-tainment. Theatre is one way of making people think globally and act locally.

In countries that are going through transitional justice, theatre is increasingly being used to bring the warring parties together under national healing. Zimbabwe has experienced massive human rights abuses caused by political tensions during elections. Recently civic organizations have been incorporating theatre for social transformation in programs that promote peace and tolerance.