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

Yvette Hutchison & Amy Jephta (eds), Contemporary Plays by African Women


The first edited collection of plays by African women to come out since Kathy A. Perkins’ 2009 African Women Playwrights (University of Illinois Press), this volume is a longawaited addition to the published body of dramatic literature from the continent, written, devised and created by women. The anthology emerged out of a 2015 Women's Playwriting International Conference in Cape Town and the African Women's Playwright Network (AWPN) funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). AWPN had been set up as an online network by the editors Yvette Hutchison of the University of Warwick, and the South African playwright and director Amy Jephta, in conjunction with a digital service provider, Every1Mobile, who are committed to social change in emerging markets. With the help of a purpose-built mobile app., African women creative practitioners were enabled to connect with each other on a national and international level, showcase their work, link up with academia and the cultural industries, and thus increase their visibility. Importantly, in a move towards decolonizing methodologies, the app. and the Facebook group (which ran parallel, but eventually replaced the app. when AHRC funding ran out) have been managed as reciprocal sites between initiators and participants; work and information can be shared and developed independently or in collaboration, as need be. (For more details see https://, accessed 17 June 2019).

The seven plays published here, some in translation, came out of this initial partnership between the project team and seven playwrights hailing from Egypt (Sara Shaarawi), Nigeria (’Tosin Jobi-Tume), Zimbabwe (Thembelihle Moyo), Uganda (Adong Judith), Kenya ( J. C. Niala), South Africa (Koleka Putuma) and Cameroon (Sophia Mempuh Kwachuh). Although some already have considerable experience as theatre and film makers, script writers, poets or community activists, with a few having been published locally, their works are as yet little known in the wider world. They could have easily remained ‘literary unknowns’, to borrow a phrase from Amandina Lihamba (‘Foreword’, African Women Playwrights 2009: x), due to inadequate publishing and marketing infrastructures, limited access to theatre spaces and development funding, and other structural inequalities at the intersection of social power and material resources, including the well-known threesome of gender, class and race. It is the same old story again and again.