Theatre as a vehicle for social change

Theatre as a vehicle for social change

THEATRE is a mirror of life, a projection of how we think and feel. Theatre involves its audience – society, both emotionally and intellectually. It sensitizes audiences to issues and ideas.
Community-based theatre goes further when a play is directly relevant to audience members’ lives and concerns, triggering a process which can lead to deeper understanding and change. Audience members recognise the characters and their dilemmas and identify with the people portrayed.

Since 1962, World Theatre Day has been celebrated by theatre organisations, theatre universities and theatre lovers all over the world on the 27th March.
This day is a celebration of those who can see the value and importance of the art form theatre, and acts as a wake-up-call for governments, politicians and institutions which have not yet recognised its value to the people and to the individuals and have not yet realised its potential for economic growth.

After eight years in the Department of English (Drama Unit) at National University of Lesotho (NUL), Zakes Mda left Lesotho to take up an appointment at another university in 1992. During his time at NUL, Mda formed Marotholi Travelling Theatre group whose main concern was to conscientise rural Basotho citizens through theatre.
“I recall during the time of Zakes Mda that most plays were written and performed, if that momentum was kept, we would probably be very far in terms of appreciating and supporting theatre performances,” says Liatile Mohale – founder of Bahale ARTS Development Centre (BADC).

It was after his departure that theatre almost came to a standstill in Lesotho. She further explained that back in the days the country had many expatriates who would attend theatre performances at Maseru Club – which is a great facility for performances. With the departure of these expats, Basotho were left in the dark in terms of knowledge and expertise of theatre.
Katt Lissard arrived from New York in 2005 on her first Fulbright scholarship to teach, research and direct performances at the National University of Lesotho. A theatre buzz was created once again when Katt directed and put on stage Venus (which was also performed in Bloemfontein) by students in the Drama Unit from NUL.

It then came to her realization that Lesotho had the 3rd highest HIV infection rate in the world. In response to the pandemic and grow out of her work in Lesotho, eight of her colleagues from four countries came together in 2006 to launch The Winter\Summer Institute (WSI), visit for further details on WSI.
This is an applied theatre-process whose goal is not only to share what the performers have learned and created, but also to offer ways for others to devise aesthetically provocative, socially challenging theatre anywhere with anyone in almost any situation.

Mamello Moroeng, a Theatre and Drama Arts National University of Lesotho alumina says: “I am really excited for having chosen Theatre Arts, it always warms my heart when I am on stage and I get positive feedback from the audience as a way of reaching out and educating through theatre as an art form. I have had a chance to perform at the GIZ/Vodacom Nokaneng Launch, Gender Links She Decides Barometer, to mention a few, which were performances for social change”.

She further says that she is a member of Bahale ARTS Development Centre (BADC) which helps her in further developing her craft as a thespian.
A student at the National University of Lesotho says his cry is for the growth of arts will depend on the government’s support.
“To most, theatre is still not considered as a career but a hobby, we need a facility through the government that is befitting for us to grow to an international level,” he says.

As a developing country, Lesotho is indeed going somewhere in terms of Creative Arts, with all the work that the National University of Lesotho has done throughout the years in nurturing its students and what its alumni is currently doing in their respective districts.
With the emergence of BADC, whose aims are to enrich art and theatre teaching and learning experiences, developing a love and appreciation for theatre at community level and use arts as a tool for healing, Lesotho continues to grow artistically.

“…Your journey is toward the instant, to the moment, toward the unrepeatable encounter before your peers. Your journey is toward them, toward their heart and toward their subjectiveness. You travel within them, in their emotions, their memories that you awake and mobilise.
Your journey is vertiginous, and nobody may major and silence it. Nor may anybody recognize it to their right extent, it is a journey through the imagination of your people, a seed that is sawn in the most remote of lands: the civic, ethical, and human conscience of your spectators…” Carlos Celdran-Cuba (World Theatre Day message 2019.

In conclusion, theatre as an art, deserves recognition and attention just like other arts and sports, from the government and other stakeholders for it to grow and serve its purpose in sensitising communities and enabling social change.
It may be of great importance that theatre gets included in the school curriculum from early stages – helping in career choices also.

Litšeo Mosenene

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