Women in african drama: representation and role
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The purpose of this study is to examine the representation and role of women in African theatre. The discussion is based on published and unpublished plays by African writers selected from a pan-African perspective. The thesis is divided into two major parts: Women in Society; The Portrayal of Women by Major Playwrights. Part I follows a thematic approach aimed at examining the position of women in three different areas which form the chapters for the part : Women, Tradition and Social Change; The Urban Woman and Women in Politics. Part II of the thesis analyses major African playwrights' presentation of women characters. This part discusses not only the characterization of women by major playwrights but also these writers' attitude towards women and women's issues. Examined here in two chapters are The Portrayal of Women by Major Male Playwrights and The Portrayal of Women by Major Female Playwrights. Chapter 1, 'Women, Tradition and Social Change' discusses selected playwrights' examination of African women's experiences in the traditional African setting as a major foundation of the present and future socio-political situation of the continent; this chapter is the springboard of the study. From the traditional milieu the study then moves on to the relatively new urban environment. This Chapter examines the predicaments in which the African woman finds herself as she struggles to survive in a world which differs significantly from the traditional one. Survival in the urban environment demands a certain degree of autonomy from communal ties on the part of the individual. Yet in the case of the African woman, society does not hesitate to censure her movements and even to point an accusing finger at her for failing to satisfy traditional expectations when she is genuinely trying to meet the challenges presented by life in towns. The myth that a woman's place is exclusively in the kitchen is a widespread one the world over. A more negative myth found in Africa is that participation of women in public affairs leads to social disaster. The third chapter of this study examines the role of African women in politics in the traditional and contemporary periods. The fourth chapter discusses the portrayal of women by major male playwrights. Of great significance in this analysis is the attitude of these male writers towards women and also towards issues affecting women. It is for this reason that cross-references are made between these male writers and the female playwrights examined in Chapter 5. Very negligible research has been done on drama by African women. It is in recognition of this unfortunate situation that the fifth and last chapter of this thesis is dedicated to women's self-perception as reflected in their portrayal of fellow-women in theatre. This chapter examines only major female playwrights; the minor female playwrights are examined alongside the male in the appropriate areas in Chapters 1 to 3.