English-language countries in sub-Saharan Africa include Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia in the west; Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in the east; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in the center; and Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, and Lesotho in the south. Several of these countries have produced a considerable body of drama and can serve as representatives of the activity that is taking place in Anglophone countries throughout Africa.
In all these countries, scripted drama in English developed even later than other written forms, perhaps because, as Cosmo Pieterse—one of the most prominent figures in the African theater—and others have suggested, traditional community life still satisfied the dramatic instinct through rituals involving music and dance and through oral narrative—both forms in which the audience was not only spectator but also participant. The potential of African drama, once established, stemmed from its ritual character and became evident soon after independence (mostly around 1960). African plays, in capitalizing on the ritual element, usually go beyond the need for mere entertainment in the search for cultural identity and social cohesion.
African plays fall generally into two categories: those that are immediately accessible to Western audiences because they rely primarily on dialogue and a tightly knit structure, with personal conflict, rising action, climax, and denouement, and those that show the influence of such structures but...
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