Applied theatre as an alternative communication approach for the development of rural communities in Africa

  • Patrick J. Ebewo Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Keywords: Applied theatre, Theatre-for-development, Theatre for education, Development communication, Health communication, HIV/Aids, Southern Africa, Lesotho, Botswana


One of the major challenges in Africa’s rural communities is whether people at grassroots level are fully aware of development or “social change” initiatives since many African governments and their agents rely on the use of conventional Euro-American media to communicate with these people. Blake (1997) and other communication researchers have frowned at contemporary Africa’s over-reliance on the Western mode of electronic and print media communication. Blake states that Africa possesses significant communication forms that are gravely neglected or minimally utilised. He makes a case for “dance, drama, song, and ritual” as media of effective communication in rural communities. This article advocates for the adoption of a development communication model that uses applied theatre praxis in the conscientisation of those at grassroots level about development initiatives/projects and the possible impacts these would have on their livelihood. The article suggests applied theatre as method to problematise, identify and challenge major constraints on development as an empowering weapon against ignorance and as a safety harness in the war against disease and poverty. Discussions of models used by practitioners worldwide serve as reference points to highlight applied theatre as “a model of good practice”.


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