Theatre and Human Rights in Africa: Historical and Literary Representations in South Africa

  • Albert O. Oloruntoba
Part of the Arts, Research, Innovation and Society book series (ARIS)


Theatre and dramatic literature play an important role in addressing human rights subject both by enhancing its maintenance and by censuring its numerous violations. Scholarly works have significantly explored the importance of theatre towards human empowerment, development and conscientisation. It is also worthy to note that since the turn of the last century, the world has seen in multiple ways, how practical drama has been adopted through dramatic literature and performance theatre to effectively explore human rights issues. The work of Shakespeare, Judith Malina and Julian Beck’s The Living Theatre (1947), Brazilian theatre practitioner, Augusto Boal—Theatre of the Oppressed (1960), Market and Protest theatres of apartheid South Africa, Pakistani, and Juliano Mer Khamis’ Freedom Theatre are some of many examples of the most influential attempts to address human rights concerns through theatre. In this chapter, I explore specific aspects of human rights and theatre in a country whose political history remains unique in different ways: South Africa. Considering the historical past of this country, Hein Marais describes it as one of the miracles of the twenty-first century (South Africa: limits to change: the political economy of transition. University of Cape Town Press, Cape Town, Hein 2001). In terms of literature and arts in general, this history or what Hein terms ‘miracle’ has made South Africa a lush site for literary exploration. With this in mind, the chapter interrogates the historical engagements of theatre in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa along with how theatre/drama as a form of art has endured different forms of limitations. Additionally, it engages a specific South African play text Green Man Flashing (2006) by dramatist, Mike Van Graan, which explores the scourge of rape in South Africa to further explore the concept of human rights and theatre/drama.


Theatre Violence Rape Politics of rape Artivist(m) Apartheid Post-apartheid Post-transitional Green Man Flashing South Africa Theatre of the oppressed 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert O. Oloruntoba
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English, Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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