Staging sustainability : an indigenous performance approach to development communication
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The process of communicating notions of sustainable development in rural grassroots communities in the oil-rich region of southern Nigeria, West Africa, is complex and remains an on-going challenge. The material consequences of ineffective communication between community leaders and their constituencies are evident in the Nigerian communities examined in this dissertation, where poverty is pervasive and where a large majority of the population can neither read nor write in English. Popular performances, specifically theatre, are an essential medium of communication and information dissemination on community development projects in these communities. Theatre for Development (TFD), as these form of popular performances are called, was first introduced to the country in 1975. Its methodology is an adaptation of the techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed created by theatre scholar Augusto Boal. The method is aimed specifically at effecting dialogue, encouraging critical thinking, and motivating the desire for community development and social change. A number of challenges, however, limit the effectiveness of this method in achieving these goals. They include funding constraints, which restrict the amount of time TFD participants spend working in any community and limit follow-up visits to sustain integral dialogues begun during a post-performance discussion. In essence, funding restrictions limit the possibility of achieving sustainable community development. To address this key challenge of time constraints and to facilitate sustained development dialogue between community stakeholders, this dissertation examines the use of indigenous performance practices staged by local performers in rural grassroots communities. By creating and staging a TFD performance using structural elements of oriki, an indigenous performance practice in the region, I address a core research question: How do structures and contents of indigenous performance practices create forums for sustained dialogue and collective consciousness awakening? The answer to this question lays the foundation for sustainable development projects in Nigeria and offers a practical way to improve the effectiveness of TFD as a medium of information dissemination, a tool to facilitate sustained dialogue, and a community development approach in rural grassroots communities in the country.