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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

Introduction

  • Edited by Martin Banham, Emeritus Professor of Drama & Theatre Studies, University of Leeds, James Gibbs, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, University of the West of England, Femi Femi Osofisan, Professor at the University of Ibadan, Jane Plastow, Professor of African Theatre, University of Leeds, Yvette Hutchison, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Performance Studies, University of Warwick
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp x-xiv

Summary

For Shakespeare, Africa was a place at the far end of imagination where men might grow into devils, freakish monstrosities or flawed and noble heroes, and the land was a space of wonder and magical beauty. In the nineteenth century missionaries sought to use Shakespeare as part of the ‘civilising mission’ and as one of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's ‘cultural bombs’, to teach English and inculcate an idea of the superiority of English culture. However, in the process, generations of Africans came to ‘own’ Shakespeare as part of their hybrid consciousness. Consequently Shakespeare was appropriated. His imagined spaces – ‘fair Verona’, and times – ancient Rome and Greece, could easily be reimagined as African. In postcolonial times many of Africa's most eminent playwrights, Dev Virahsawmy, Femi Osofisan and Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin among them, have taken Shakespeare's plays and made translations, adaptations and tradaptations for their own aesthetic and sociopolitical purposes. A fair amount has been written about Shakespeare and Africa, from the first production by presumably homesick sailors in Sierra Leone in 1607, the school productions of colonial Anglophone Africa, to such seminal translations as those in the 1960s by Tanzania's first president, Julius Nyerere, of Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice, to prove the linguistic sophistication of Kiswahili.