Fluidity and fixity of performer, audience and performing space

Angelus Mnenuka




Performance Theory is one of the theories which have by far removed
several inconsistencies and contradictions in analysing orature, notably
African orature. Unlike former theories which took texts as a basis in
interpreting orature, Performance Theory considers performance as a
socially situated aesthetic communication between the performer and
the audience both of whom participate in the process as active agents.
However, some of its notions are heavily influenced by western
theatre. Consequently, some conceptual details go unnoticed because,
instead of enriching the notions from the first-hand experience of the
African oral arts, western concepts are used instead. This paper seeks
to challenge some of the performance conceptual axioms by showing
aspects that were taken for granted. Most of the concepts, particularly
performer, audience and performance space (stage) were for quite a
long time treated as separate fundamental performance entities. In this
paper, I attempt to refute these truisms and instead argue that, in
practice, these notions are fluid except for only a few of them. A wide
variety of examples are given to testify arguments put forward. The
paper concludes by emphasising that African orature genres are more
characterised by fluidity and only a few of them are really fixed. In
addition, some elements of African orature performances are
ephemeral and sometimes unexpected.

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