CMU School of Drama

Monday, April 24, 2017

Why Decolonization Means The Possible End Of Shakespeare In South Africa's Schools

The Theatre Times: South Africa’s education authorities are reviewing the school curriculum. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has confirmed that the review will feature a focus on “decolonization,” reflecting the need to move towards the use of more African and South African novels, drama, and poetry. This might spell the end of William Shakespeare in the country’s classrooms. The Conversation Africa’s education editor Natasha Joseph asked Professor Chris Thurman about the implications of the proposed review.


Helena Hewitt said...

An initial gut reaction to this article might be that not teaching Shakespeare would be a tragedy of sorts for these students. However, it is likely an equal tragedy that there are many South African playwrights who I can’t even name. I do admire that they are trying to engage with the work not just as a classic in a vacuum but while actually acknowledging the social and historical connotations of the work as particular to them. No matter how classic or timeless the writing, no literature is free of the prejudices and complications born from both the time and place and by whom it was written and the time and by whom it is performed. It is admirable that these teachers are starting these conversations with their students at a high school level. As part of an institution that for various reasons engages with problematic work, I agree with Professor Thurman that is it not necessarily the material you are using but how you use it. At CMU there have been several conversations about how to effectively work with the problematic material and how to use it to start larger discussions about political and social context.

Kelly Simons said...

Shakespeare is so ingrained in the current culture that, as a high school student, it seems almost ludicrous. However, this article seems to be arguing that high schools in South Africa are slowly phasing out Shakespeare: “But this limited space could still accommodate writers representing both “Western” (a dubious term, but let’s use it) and South African, African or postcolonial authors. The question is whether or not Shakespeare needs to be the “representative” of English – as in British – literature when there are hundreds of other, more accessible authors to choose from.” I do agree with this part of the article; Shakespeare is a hard read even as a native English speaker. To learn English, and then try to tackle Shakespeare’s oftentimes heavy texts would be a challenge. It would not only be a challenge but a potential time suck out of the semester as well. A normal English book can be introduced and read in two weeks, but often times a Shakespeare play can take days to simply translate one scene.

Galen shila said...

the movement twords decolonization is important and i feel that everyone should embrace their culture and teach it so that we as a people are aware of our past and cultural ties. I also think that it is important to be aware of history in a global perspective. I find that studying Shakespeare was not about studying English but a combination of history and the human condition. I find that Shakespeare work tends to transcend cultural bounds and i feel personaly that it is important to study Shakespeare if you want a idea of western storytelling. now i understand that it is important to recognize and study your own cultural form of storytelling. But in our more globalized world it is important to have an understanding of western storytelling history as well as your own. For those studying theater i think this understanding is imperative because it is on that tradition that the majority of our theater is shaped on.

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

This article was especially intriguing because it branched my global histories class along with my theater major so well. In global, we're discussing the effect of the British Empire's colonization efforts in Africa on their society, culture, and traditions. Naturally Shakespeare would make its way over there while they "civilized" the people and It's understandable why it's common to produce it there. However, now that Britain has lost an enormous chunk of it's global influence and global empire, it's interesting that Shakespeare, along with plenty of other things, is being pushed out of African culture. Throughout it's history, South Africa has faced so many issues that came out of colonization, apartheid, European influence, etc. that it's great to see that they're nationalizing their state and becoming fully independent. However, I'm not sure Shakespeare and other European customs can be pushed out entirely because of how prevalent they've been in their society for centuries. As Galen stated, South Africa has had plenty of time to learn about European culture and I think now we should try to learn more about their cultures and their sociopolitical movements; this article is a step in the right direction.

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