A Study of the Subject of National Healing and Reconciliation in Selected Plays at the Kenya National Drama Festival 2008-2010.
Odipo, Moses O.
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Utilizing Kenya Schools and Colleges’ Drama Festival theatre space, this study investigates the use of theatre as a strategy for healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict. On the assumption that plays performed at the festival are mimetic of real life, this study purposively sampled four plays performed between 2008 and 2010 in relation to calls for healing and reconciliation following Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence. The performance-texts are Messiah (2008) by Joseph Murungu, The Broken Pot (2010) by Wenceslaus Masinde, Forty Minutes (2008) by Nelson Ashitiva and Barabbas (2009) by Ondiech Malala. The use of qualitative research design enabled an in-depth understanding of the performance-texts which were segmented and analyzed in terms of: the narrative content, actors/actresses performance and productions techniques. This study is founded on two theories: one, aspects of theatre performance theory as propounded, largely, by Richard Schechner and, secondly, J.L Austin’s speech act theory. Common to these two theories is the concept of performativity. While the former provided a schema for segmenting the performance-texts for purposes of analysis, the latter’s notion that utterances perform actions was instrumental in evaluating stage dialogue about healing and reconciliation. Performance analysis applied to texts selected in this study returned a result that the performers stirred critical consciousness among the spectators through their manipulation of voice, body and environmental factors. Through the narrative content, these performance-texts engage the spectators in the process of healing and reconciliation by identifying the ills and their sources, and by offering prescriptions which restore healthy relations. In the whole range of renewal of the individual and the collective are issues such as: memory, truth, acknowledgement, reparation, transitional justice, expiation, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. This study foregrounds a persuasion that Kenya Schools and Colleges’ Drama Festival provides a platform through which, among other social issues, endeavours of national healing and reconciliation were augmented after Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence. This study recommends a theatre for reconciliation that combines the mimetic and transformational functions. For practitioners, scholars and in service for mankind, this study adds to the knowledge base at the confluence between theatre and conflict management.