[ON STAGE]Realities of Africa in Drama

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[ON STAGE]Realities of Africa in Drama

Representations of African culture have sometimes been shaped by the general assumptions of a few Eurocentric intellectuals. The range of stereotypes of African natives depicted in the American media and ethnographic magazines perpetuate some long-standing exotic fantasies.

Such a view of Africa is not so different in Korea, and it may be even more stereotyped. Africa is merely perceived as a "continent" rather than a living "culture" to many Koreans.

The African Theater Festival, organized in part by the African Research Institute in Korea, is an ambitious attempt to overcome public misperceptions about the current political and social situation in Africa. Based on original screenplays that have been written and mostly produced in Africa, the three films represented in the festival attempt to educate a Korean audience in the rich literary traditions of the continent.

"Make Like Slaves" by the South African writer Richard Rive is an experimental play about a Caucasian teacher who constantly preaches to her black students. Using the teacher-student setting as a metaphor for the existing social hierarchy, the play tackles the complex relationship between race, class and gender in South Africa.

"Woza Albert" by the controversial South African writer Boney Simom, is a playful production about two prisoners who wait for the coming of their Messiah. The play "Road" by the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka is a bitter critique about social corruption in African society, using rather heavy philosophical aphorisms. A political activist who stood against the Nigerian military government and the 1996 Nobel Prize winner in literature for his "People in the Bush," Mr. Soyinka's play depicts a story of a truck driver who keeps encountering car accidents on a mysterious road of death.

Kim Sin-ki, the chief organizer of the festival, confesses that there was a great difficulty staging African plays in Korea with so few resources available in local libraries.

Starring actors from Theater Club, a performers' collective that has been staging rather progressive plays, the event is the first of its kind to be performed in Korea.

The festival runs through June 11. For information about performance schedules, call 011-9609-0871 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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