En-gendering theatre in Eritrea : the roles and representations of women in the performing arts
This thesis is a first attempt at writing a modern theatre historiography of Eritrea, with emphasis on the roles and representations of women. It covers a period of some fifty years, from the late 1930s to 1991, the year of the country's de facto independence. The study is divided into three major sections; Part One providing the context of theatre in Eritrea, Part Two dealing with the emergence of modern Eritrean theatre arts, and Part Three covering the rise of the fighter performing arts during the thirty-year liberation struggle against Ethiopia. After an introduction to Eritrean history and theatre arts as well as the theoretical framework of the study, Chapter 1 examines women's roles and representations in Eritrean societies and selected traditional performing arts as the matrix onto which modern performance practices are built. Chapter 2 starts with a portrayal of early urban women performers in the late 1930s and early 1940s as singers and krar-players in local drinking houses, followed by the gradual expansion of Eritrean theatre arts under the British Military Administration. Thereafter the establishment of three well-known Eritrean theatre associations is examined, with Chapter 3 focusing on the Asmara Theatre Association, Mahber Theatre Asmara, whose work was eventually brought to a halt by the rise of the Ethiopian Derg regime. An investigation into the cultural troupes of the two liberation movements, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) is dealt with in Part Three. Chapter 4 outlines theatre work in the ELF, while Chapters 5-7 present details of EPLF performing arts. Chapter 5 begins with early performance activities until the strategic retreat in 1978/79, followed by Chapter 6 with an analysis of drama work after the reorganisation of the Division of Culture. Chapter 7 covers theatre activities in mass organisations and supporting departments and outlines cultural developments during the final years of the liberation war. In conclusion, major trends and directions in post-independence Eritrean theatre arts are summarised as they continue to negotiate recent socio-political problems and developments.