WOMEN’S THEATRE AND ACTIVISM IN JAMAICA AND SOUTH AFRICA
Watch me speak about my research, with reference to Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and The Mothertongue Project, South Africa here.
My research analyzes how women of African descent on the continent and in the Diaspora utilize theatre as activism with a focus on the work of four groups and projects in Jamaica and South Africa. The current phase of this scholarship centers the work of Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and The Mothertongue Project, South Africa. I examine how the two organizations engage in feminist and gender conscious activism through performance, by closely analyzing their two most recent projects. The first of these is the pro-choice play, A Slice of Reality (2008-2009), which Sistren produced with the Hannah Town Cultural Group and presented to the Jamaican Parliament during the debates around amending the country’s anti-abortion laws. The second is The Mothertongue’s Walk: South Africa (2013-2014), a performance installation that protests against rape and other forms of sexual violence in South Africa. I locate these performances within the repertoires of Sistren and The Mothertongue as well as within a larger context of Black women’s performance-based activism globally.
Theatre engages with women’s ontology, thereby offering subjective understandings that supplement as well as critique non-performance-based forms of activism. South Africa and Jamaica have many differences in terms of history, culture, geography and demographics. However, drawing on the work of scholars like Elaine Aston and Sue-Ellen Case (2007), Kanika Batra (2011), and Jane Plastow, Yvette Hutchison and Christine Matzke (2015), my research emphasizes women’s common experiences, and in particular, Black women’s ongoing struggles against racial and gendered socio-economic inequalities across the globe. It contributes to broadening the collection of transnational and intercultural scholarship on feminist/women’s theatre. Concurrently, it makes valuable contributions to gender and sexuality studies, theatre and performance studies, African and African Diaspora studies and Caribbean studies, by centering the role of women of African descent in activism and knowledge production in these fields.