French-Language African Drama Themes

Themes and Genres

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Historical plays constituted a large number of the dramatic works that made up the francophone theater. There were several reasons for the popularity of this kind of play. On one hand, the themes found in the historical plays represented a carryover from the negritude movement, which emphasized the importance of the revalorization of the African past, people, and culture. A dramatic performance was perhaps the most poignant way to reveal the importance of African civilization. Besides this fact, there was also a wealth of traditional material that could serve as a source of creative inspiration for African playwrights.

Kâ’s Les Amazoulous (pr. 1968) is an example of the historical play. This dramatic work is based on the life of the legendary figure Shaka, the subject of numerous literary works and history texts. In his play, Kâ presents Shaka the man, as well as the warrior whose heroism has reached epic proportions. As a result, the author relates Shaka’s life to the issues affecting the quality of life of Africans and at the same time immortalizes the past of an important African figure. In like manner, Ndao, in his historical play Du sang pour un trône, dramatizes the struggle for power between Macodou Fall, the father, and Samba Lawbe, his son. Through the character of Niambali, he also alludes to the power struggle that exists in real life. Thus, Ndao establishes a symbolic relationship between the events of the play and the sociopolitical climate in Africa.

Béatrice du Congo, another historical play, deals with the question of assimilation. This was an important part of the French civilizing mission in Africa. Dadié’s humorous portrayal of the Congolese king who sought to imitate European values criticizes this policy of assimilation. This is indeed a play that attempts to raise the political consciousness of the spectator by dramatizing the adverse effects of colonialism on Africa and Africans.


(The entire section is 805 words.)