Saw Chinua Achebe speak yesterday; per Noh, the grace of age. He performed elegy, sweetly, refraining from argument, making space. His refrain: Africans are people. He acknowledged that this is ridiculously simple, and directed outwards, but he sees it as a truth that has yet to be accepted. Responsibility too was laid on the rising generation of African scholars (present), but deep down, the IMF etc. acts as though Africans are a condition to be treated… A paraphrase: “You do not take food away from a hungry man to accelerate his learning about the nature of hunger.”
In this spirit, laconically, then: right-minded complaints about Eurocentric architecture and dramaturgy continuing to colonize African performance. I agree – and want to link this with the notion of auto-colonization. There is mirror-complaint in the “West,” or “North” or hegemony or Force.
In its terminal stages, theater that defines itself (or is defined by) a fixed site and privileged architecture (a locked building or controlled location dedicated to a single purpose – the industrial manufacture of art-experience) is the piston of the state in the engine of capital; it is supported insofar as it support state or capital control; they’re shut (by law or economic coercion) when they’re a threat. “Subscribers” are held up as guarantors of democracy, but they are constituted as a minority corporation and function with the same impulses toward stable self-perpetuation (vs. artistic impulse, which breaks itself open continually for the sake of unstable invention).
When these same sites were in formation they were independent, in critique, or in creative dialogue with power – they were their own power.
Performance – defined broadly as seeing and showing in time – is marked elementally by: mortality and alterity. It is un-fixed. It creates knowledge and value rather than delivering it or trading in it.
You can’t talk about the new Ethiopian Theater without talking about the one world – one but diverse/ecological. And colonialism, capital and America all prosecute their myths against themselves – to radically different effect than their defined objects, but nonetheless really and perversely. There may be fellowship in struggle across borders, in fact there has to be.