Language is powerful and a lot of human understanding starts with the pen, the scribe, the playwright. For too long, narratives in theatre have locked African characters in positions of desolation or disease. Fortunately, writers such as Jocelyn Bioh, Ngozi Anyanwu, Tori Sampson, Danai Gurira and Aya Aziz are actively shifting this narrative. Their nuanced storytelling humanizes the ordinary experiences of extraordinary characters who happen to be African or direct descendants of African people.
The majority of Western theatre audiences are white, Anglo and Euro descendants. I don’t mention this because it is impossible for those audiences to understand our stories, I mention this because I think it is very likely that they will. It is likely that they will absorb these stories as sheer irrevocable truth. African/Diasporan narratives are often distant from their own personal, familial, and cultural experiences, so they are more inclined to take the portrayals they see on stage at face value. If Ugandans in The Book of Mormon are all riddled with AIDS, then surely it must be an epidemic that touches everyone native to the country. If the most widely accepted African story is set in the pridelands of The Lion King, then surely untamed topography expands over most of the continent. In order to combat these long withstanding stereotypes, we need more stories. And we need to entrust these stories to the writers who have actually lived with them.
- JOCELYN BIOH | ‘School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play
- NGOZI ANYANWU | ‘Good Grief’
- TORI SAMPSON | ‘If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be A Muhfucka’
- DANAI GURIRA | ‘The Convert’
- AYA AZIZ | ‘Eh Dah? Questions for my Father’
Read more details at African Stories