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Reviewed by:
  • Nouvelles dramaturgies d'Afrique noire francophone
  • Alain Ricard
Nouvelles dramaturgies d'Afrique noire francophone Ed. Sylvie ChalayePlurial 12. Rennes: Presses de l'Université de Rennes, 2004. 188 pp.

Sylvie Chalaye has written many essays and books on francophone African theater. Nouvelles dramaturgies d'Afrique noire francophone presents the proceedings of a symposium organized by the Théâtre de Bretagne in 2002. In this volume, Chalaye has collected several contributions treating the symposium's theme of innovation in the last decade and highlighting its partial dedication to the work of Koffi Kwahule, one of the most innovative of new dramatists. The volume is divided into three parts: The "Entre deux" (In between African and Europe); Violence and Subversion; and Orality. The collection also draws attention to the repertory of the Limoges Festival, which continues to be a major event in francophone theater. New names in the field, such as Koulsy Lamko, Jose Pliya, Mercedes Fouda, Kangni Alem, Kossi Efoui, and Florent Couao Zotti, are presented, with papers by Chalaye on Kossi Efoui and by Natasa Raschi on violence and modernity setting the tone for the volume. In addition, the work of true avant-garde artists such as Werewere Liking is given its due.

There is indeed a theater movement, and this book is a good example of a commonality of purpose and interests found in Limoges and those French cultural institutions that subsidize and support this new theater, and it would certainly be interesting to get a picture of the institutional context in which it is produced. What is new in this theater seems to be the extent to which it has now penetrated contemporary French theater, for some of the best dramatists writing at present in French come from Africa.

What about Africa, then? Why no references here to the works of Wole Soyinka? He is indeed still quite active in theater, having recently adapted a very pertinent [End Page 145] "francophone" play, Ubu (2002), and toured Africa. He was even invited to the Limoges Festival the year he received the Nobel Prize (1986). It would surely be intellectually and artistically good to open new windows onto the rest of the continent.

A very useful Who's Who is included in this volume (177-86) but I was surprised, given the importance attached to Togolese writers such as Kossi Efoui and Kangni Alem, not to see the name of Senouvo Agbota Zinsou, a major dramatist who is continuing his career in Bayreuth, Germany—removed, for his own good, from the circles of Parisian hommes-de-lettres and francophonist cultural notability. Zinsou's work centers on what is precisely given prominence in this collection of essays: orality. He is a true innovator, and for him, the Bible and Ewe tales are all part of orality. Furthermore, I would also like to see more analysis of the meaning of this catchphrase term, "orality": what exactly is it? Oral French, Parisian argot, Abidjanais, an African language?

This little book maps a new territory and invites further study. It deserves to be read and discussed.

Alain Ricard
Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, INALCO/Paris 7


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pp. 145-146
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