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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Judith G. Miller (ed.) & Chantal Bilodeau (trans.), Seven Plays of Koffi Kwahulé: In & Out of Africa


Seven Plays of Koffi Kwahulé: In and Out of Africa is an anthology of plays translated into English from the French language by Chantal Bilodeau and Judith G. Miller. Consisting of ‘That Old Black Magic’, ‘Jaz’, ‘Big Shoot’, ‘Misterioso-911’, ‘Blue-S-Cat’, ‘Brewery’ and ‘Melancholy of Barbarians’, published and performed at different times of the Francophone author's career, these texts engage a major critical narrative frame that is thematically relevant not only to the author's Ivorian roots, but also to the African continent. Further, the ‘In and Out of Africa’ fragment in the title suggests that Kwahulé undoubtedly universalizes his subject matter which he adequately explores in the seven plays. I should mention at the outset that Judith G. Miller’s insightful and informative introduction titled ‘Soundscapes, Mindscapes, and Escape: An Introduction to the Theatre of Koffi Kwahulé’ agrees with the universality of the author’s dramatic world. She states:

Reacting to what has come to be seen by some as the illusionary pan-Africanism of the earlier generations and especially refusing the perceived expectation that African playwrights must produce plays in which the vision of Africa corresponds to a particular myth of Africa, to wit a culture of drums and dancing and themes of corruption and tribalism, the ‘hybrid’ playwrights launched angry manifestoes in the early 1990s & Their plays depict a world in which themes of racism, exile, civil violence, cultural dislocation and identity shifts can apply to all manner of people, not just the formerly colonized. (3)

Varied characters whose appealing and dramatically relevant personae range from villains to victims authenticate these themes. Further Kwahulé's characters employ a unique style of vibrant lyricism even in the middle of degenerate acts. He supports his technique of lyricism with a generous use of music in the plays to speak to those discourses that discursively link to African history and its numerous diasporic networks. ‘That Old Black Magic’ involves a jazz quartet. Besides playing jazz music at some scenes, the quartet improvises Fauré's Requiem at climatic moments of dramatic action, precisely capturing the fight between Shorty, an African American boxer and Todd Ketchel, a Caucasian boxer and former ‘great white hope’, during which the latter dies.