Theatre Research International


The Lives and Deaths of Zakia: How AIDS Changed African Community Theatre and Vice Versa



This article discusses the functions of African community theatre in general, and its preventive capacity in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in particular. By delineating the parallel developments of community theatre and HIV prevention, the reciprocal needs of the practices are assessed in light of certain cases in Tanzania. This country has taken a leading position in the implementation of sustainable and locally owned theatre projects, but the challenges of the AIDS epidemic have proven so vast that the previously assumed purposes of community theatre must be called into question. Rather than being viewed as a means in itself, or a means for rapid change, community theatre is viewed as a relational means in coordinated programmes against AIDS. However, in spite of functioning as an exceptional relational agency for the most exposed cohort in the epidemic (women aged between fifteen and twenty-four), the social, gender and epidemic predicaments will persist as long as policy-makers do not fully recognize the status of young people and the capacity of community theatre.

DR OLA JOHANSSON, has a double assignment, namely as Lecturer in Radical Theatre and Performance Analysis at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, and as Research Associate at Stockholm University (Sweden)/University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) in connection with a research project called AIDS and the Art of Survival: African Community Theatre as HIV Prevention (2006-8). His latest article is ‘Performative Interventions: African Community Theatre in the Age of AIDS’, in Mark Franko, ed., Ritual and Event: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (New York and London: Routledge, 2006).