Playwriting and postcolonialism : identifying the key factors in the development and diminution of playwriting in Ghana 1916-2007

Collins, Stephen (2011) Playwriting and postcolonialism : identifying the key factors in the development and diminution of playwriting in Ghana 1916-2007. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The focus of this thesis is playwriting in Ghana from the colonial era to the in 2007 and the Ghana@50 celebrations which marked fifty years of independence from Britain. Through the analysis of key playtexts produced in this period, which I use as a collective document of Ghana’s cultural history, I seek to uncover the major factors that contributed to the flourishing of playwriting directly post independence and its recent dramatic diminution. Over this time period only a few dozen Ghanaian plays were published and of those only a handful have become known to an international audience. However, collectively they document an intricate relationship between politics and culture within a colonial and then postcolonial society. The story that is revealed by the analysis of that relationship unveils a fascinating trajectory in the development of playwriting in Ghana, and highlights a complex, often over-lapping, interplay between theatre and politics.

For this research I have drawn significantly on original interviews with artists and academics. The importance of Ghana as a choice of study lies both in analysing why the current situation exists and how, through that analysis, Ghana’s postcolonial experience speaks to, and questions, dominant trends in postcolonial theory. Through an analysis of the work of colonial and postcolonial playwrights I interrogate the claim of the politician and playwright Mohammed ben-Abdallah that his plays fit within Fanon’s ‘third phase’ of postcolonial artistic expression, and suggest that Ghana’s actual position in terms of postcolonial theory (and the effect of the postcolonial experience on playwrights) is far more nuanced.

The findings of this research point towards the historic success of playwriting in Ghana being contingent upon the political promotion of a unitary sense of national identity, a situation that occurred both directly post independence and in the 1980s after a series of military coups. Playwrights’ synchronicity with politics during these periods (compounded by the establishment of institutions and the publishing of play texts as icons of Ghanaian culture) enabled political agendas to shape and influence the creative and performative codes of Ghanaian theatre. This led to the promotion of a strict model of legitimating criteria that simultaneously delegitimised alternative or pluralist voices. I argue that this process problematised playwriting and ultimately contributed to a situation where Ghana boasts strong theatrical institutions, but very few new published plays.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Ghanaian theatre, Ghanaian playwriting, postcolonialism, Gold Coast, Efua Sutherland, Mohammed ben-Abdallah, African studies, African playwrighting and politics, colonialism, culture, National Theatre, Joe de Graft, colonial playwriting in Africa, Mabel Dove, Kobina Sekyi, J.B.Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Rawlings,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
P Language and Literature > PE English
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Scullion, Prof. Adrienne and Gough, Dr. Kathleen
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr S Collins
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3166
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:04

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