The first English translations of the surreal and violent work of one of Francophone Africa’s most accomplished living playwrights
The work of renowned Ivoirian playwright Koffi Kwahulé has been translated into some 15 languages and is performed regularly throughout Europe, Africa, and the Americas. For the first time, Seven Plays of Koffi Kwahulé: In and Out of Africa makes available to an Anglophone audience some of the best and most representative plays by one of Francophone Africa’s most accomplished living playwrights.
Kwahulé’s theater delves into both the horror of civil war in Africa and the diasporic experience of peoples of African origin living in Europe and the “New World.” From the split consciousness of the protagonist and rape victim in Jaz to the careless buffoonery of mercenaries in Brewery, Kwahulé’s characters speak in riffs and refrains that resonate with the improvisational pulse of jazz music. He confronts us with a violent world that represents the damage done to Africa and asks us, through exaggeration and surreal touches, to examine the reality of an ever-expanding network of global migrants. His plays speak to the contemporary state of humanity, suffering from exile, poverty, capitalist greed, collusion, and fear of “the other”—however that “other” gets defined.
Judith G. Miller’s introductory essay situates Kwahulé among his postcolonial contemporaries. Short introductory essays to each play, accompanied by production photos, contextualize possible approaches to Kwahulé’s often enigmatic work. Anglophone theater scholars and theater professionals eager to engage with contemporary theater beyond their borders, particularly in terms of what so-called minority theater artists from other countries are creating, will welcome this indispensable collection. Students and scholars of African studies and of global French studies will also find this work intriguing and challenging.
Judith G. Miller is Professor of French and Collegiate Professor at New York University.
Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator.