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Author: Praise Zenenga
“The war between art and the state is really a struggle between the power of performance in the arts and the performance of power by the state – in short, enactments of power” (Ngugi waThiongo, Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams. 1998).
This paper examines the love-hate relationship that exists between the state and theatre practitioners in Zimbabwe. It argues that in spite of the post independence regime’s long commitment to the transformational power of theatre, the relationship between the state and theatre practitioners in Zimbabwe has always been and uneasy one. In practice, theatre companies (as civil society organizations) maybe allied with the state, or opposed to it, or both at different times and may also be co opted by the state (17). For example, in their capacity as of civil society institutions, theatre companies that are often opposed to the state on issues such as democracy, bad governance corruption, development priorities, and violence oftentimes find themselves allied to the state in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the promotion of peace and national unity. To an extent, theatre reflects the ideological splinters currently obtaining Zimbabwe. In my analysis, popular theatre becomes both a forum for expressing or endorsing state policies and ideologies and also a means to critique the dominant culture. Just as the proverbial double edged sword theatre operates in tandem with state orthodoxies while at the same time it also works in opposition state agendas. The extent to which funding shapes the relationship between theatre and the state is also central to my analysis. I will also critically examine how spaces and audiences also impact upon the evolving relationship between theatre and the Zimbabwean state.
Theatre, Literature and Popular Literature