Tracing the Web: Exploring the legacy of Mohammed Ben Abdallah in Ghana’s Theatre for Development.
Mohammed Ben Abdallah is perhaps best known as a playwright and political figure. His role in the development of the National Theatre, his position in the Rawlings government and the quality of his plays all bear testament to a pre-eminent figure in Ghana’s literary landscape. Though playwrights have not emerged as frequently as may have been hoped to take up his mantle and develop Ghana’s literary theatre into the 21st century, the transformative politics of his abibigoro have had diverse and unexpected consequences, notably in theatre for development.
Ben-Abdallah has described his work as existing within the ‘third phase’ of Fanon’s description of postcolonial artistic expression, where ‘the African artist liberates himself or herself utterly from colonial enslavement’ (Agbeyega and Gibbs, 2000, 64). Using the work of the James Town Community Theatre Company as a case study, I would like to use this paper to examine the links between Ben Abdallah’s political theatre and the liberative methodologies employed by contemporary theatre companies working in Ghanaian theatre for development. By so doing, I argue that the way in which theatre is used in Ghana as a tool for social development can be traced to Ben Abdallah and the transformative politics of performance he developed.
18 May 2018
Creativity, Pugnacity and Nationhood: Theatre and Socio-Political Transformation in Post-Colonial Africa