Sidestream vs Mainstream: Shifting the Centre in African Diaspora Theatre in the UK

  • Tue 7 Nov 17

    17:30 - 19:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Osita Okagbue

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of

It is a puzzling fact that young black people in London today are marginalized, fragmented, unenfranchised, disadvantaged, and dispersed. And yet they look as if they own the territory. "Somehow, they too, in spite of everything, are centred, in place, without much material support, it’s true, but nevertheless, they occupy a new kind of space at the centre." (Hall, 1987, p 114)

This seminar challenges Hall’s idea of the new centred-ness of black people in British society by using the notion of diaspora as resistance to the exclusionary tendency of the nation-state and thus active alternative and opposition to mainstream to propose a sidestream-mainstream dynamic within the British cultural landscape as the ideal conceptual and practical relationship between African diaspora performance practices and mainstream British theatre.

The central argument of the research is that African disapora theatre should not continue to desire and strive to be accepted or take its place in the mainstream, rather it should like Hall’s Black youth carve out a new space for itself in the ‘centre’; that is, that it should be in the centre but not of the centre.

The choice of sidestream-mainstream instead of centre-periphery/margin is informed by essentially two considerations. The first is a key principle which is viewed as underpinning much postcolonialist thinking and practice -  the idea and fact that the colonized now speaks for himself/herself; he or she is now the subject of his/her narrative as opposed to being the object of the colonizer’s story. The second is the strong articulation and indicative practicalisation of this central principle by Ngugi wa Thiong’o in the apt metaphor in his book, Moving the Centre: The Struggles for Cultural Freedoms (1993: 12), when he talks about postcolonial theory being about ‘creating space for a hundred flowers to bloom’.

This research tests a model of theatre practice that draws from the idea of making space for a hundred flowers to bloom; that is ‘of moving the centre… towards a plurality of centres, themselves being equally legitimate locations of the human imagination’(1993: 8). This seminar presents some of the findings of the pilot undertaken in 2012.

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