Ghanaian Theatre

Ama Ata Aidoo, Anowa Efua Sutherland, Foriwa Kwasi Fiawoo, Toko Atolia Joe de Graft, Muntu James Gibbs, Nkyin-Kyin Kobina Sekyi, The Blinkards

Ghanaian Theatre: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources

A work in progress, by James Gibbs

© James Gibbs

"The study of their own ancient as well as modern history has been shamefully neglected

by educated inhabitants of the Gold Coast"

John Mensah Sarbah, Fanti National Constitution. London, 1906: 71

This document is a response to a need perceived while teaching in the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, during 1994. In addition to primary material and articles on the theatre in Ghana, it lists reviews of Ghanaian play-texts and itemizes documents relating to the Ghanaian theatre held in my own collection. I have also brought included references to material on the evolution of the literary culture in Ghana, and to anthropological studies. The whole reflects an awareness of some of the different ways in which 'theatre' has been defined over the decades, and of the energies that have been expended in creating archives and check-lists dedicated to the sister of arts of music and dance. It works, with an 'inclusive' bent, on an area that focuses on theatre, drama and performance studies.

When I began the task I found existing bibliographical work, for example that of Margaret D. Patten in relation to Ghanaian Imaginative Writing in English, immensely useful, but it only covered part of the area of interest. Resources for the study of local theatre had not been catalogued, and there was a distressing ignorance among the student body about sources and history. Many knew little about what had been happening in the theatre in Ghana or about what had been written. I found John Mensah-Sarbah's observation reproduced above very pertinent.

What follows is a work in progress, a partly annotated bibliography from which a variety of strands could, and I hope will, be plucked. Additional research needs to be undertaken, and I hope information about new entries and, when necessary, corrections to existing ones will be sent to me at the address below. At this point, it is particularly apparent that the back numbers of certain publications must be thoroughly investigated, that the memories of those involved in Ghanaian theatre must be tapped, and that the files of theatre groups must be sifted.

For limited periods publications such as Okyeame, Sankofa, Pleisure and What's On? have attempted to keep track of contemporary events in the Ghanaian theatre. Indeed, during my eight months in Ghana during 1994, I edited a School of Performing Arts Newsletter that aimed to continue the tradition. It provided coverage of productions put on in Legon and Accra, and published articles that filled in some gaps about the recent past. Charles Angmor (1996) and Karl Richard Priebe (1986) are among those who have produced substantial surveys of the theatre in Ghana. Anyone wanting an overview of the history might start with them.

This publication is offered to all those who were members of the Legon 7 in the late sixties and early seventies, and for those who were in the School of Performing Arts during the first part of 1994. Since 18 November 1994 when the first Enuanom edition appeared, new entries have come to my attention and what may be considered revised and up-date 'editions' have been prepared. These have been issued by Nolisment Publications and made available on disc. Distribution continues. For example, in 1999 a copy on disc was deposited at the School of Performing Arts Library.

In undertaking a work of this kind one incurs many debts. Where interviews are recorded or archives acknowledged, thanks are implied to those interviewed and those in charge of collections. Among those who have helped fill in details or add to the collection of documents, I would like to recognise here assistance from Michael Anderson, Wilfred Court, Eric and Auriole Earle, supportive members of Ghana School Aid, who have helped with details of, for example, the productions put on by the British Council Players. Evans Oma Hunter and former colleagues at the University of Ghana have been among the Ghanaian theatre enthusiasts who have made material available.

My wife has been a constant source of support and insight.

In 2002, a composite file was created, and asterisks were added to date headings in order to enable Word's search/find facility to locate beginnings of year entries. Work has continued, and I have raided bibliographies for additional references. Publications by John Collins and Catherine Cole have been particularly inspirational. Feedback is invited.

Some further reading

Anyidoho, Kofi and James Gibbs (Eds.), 2000: FonTomFrom: Contemporary Ghanaian Literature, Theater and Film. (Matatu, 21-22) Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi.

Gibbs, James, 2008 (Ed.): African Theatre 7. Special issue: Companies. Woodbridge, UK and Rochester, NY: James Currey.

Gibbs, James, 2009: Nkyin-Kyin: Essays on the Ghanaian Theatre. (Cross/ Cultures, 98) Amsterdam and New York, NY: Rodopi.

James Gibbs was born in Wales and educated in the UK and US. He then taught at universities in Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Belgium and the UK before retiring from teaching in 2007. His publications include Wole Soyinka (Macmillan) that appeared in 1986, the year in which, with Ketu H. Katrak and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., he published Wole Soyinka, A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources (Westport, Conn: Greenwood). Gibbs has edited two handbooks for African writers, the second with Jack Mapanje (African Books Collective, 1999); in 1993, he and Bernth Lindfors have edited a collection entitled Research on Wole Soyinka (Africa World Press) and, with Kofi Anyidoho, he has edited a collection of essays on Ghanaian Literature, Theatre and Film (FonTomFrom, 2000). His own collection of essays on the Ghanaian theatre, Nkyin-Kyin, was published by Rodopi in 2009. His extensive bibliography on the theatre in Ghana is on line at the Jahn Library site. Gibbs is a founder editor of the James Currey / Boydell & Brewer African Theatre series, and, in 2012, was ‘Guest Editor’ of a volume on Festivals in that series. During November 2013, Bernth Lindfors and Geoffrey V. Davis presented him with a festschrift they had edited in his honour entitled African Literatures and Beyond (Rodopi). Gibbs lives in Bristol where he remains in touch with some developments as reviews editor for African Literature Today and as an external examiner for the University of Ghana.