Saturday, December 8, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Using theatre arts to aid
By: REV. DR. E.K. ASIAMAH
THEATRE Arts, also called drama, is an academic discipline that brings all other subjects together. It is the representative of life on stage to audience. The reflection of life through performance is an important pedagogic process which theatre artists seek to promote in the many different types of theatre that we have today.
However, Theatre for Development (also often called Theatre for Extension Communication), allows a much more interactive, participatory and collaborative methodologies in recent times to evaluating, conscientising, challenging and suggesting the way forward in the promotion of development in rural Africa – in all of the developing worlds.
Theatre for Development seeks to build a bridge between Theatre and Development. This is when experts use theatre to educate, inform and communicate to communities with the aim of challenging members of the community to critically examine their ways of doing things, or challenge individuals and community members to consider other alternative ways of looking at things, problems, traditions, mind sets, to mention a few.
The issues and problems facing individuals, communities, nations at local and global levels are possible fertile grounds on which Theatre thrives. In respect to TFD, these problems give space for theatre to be used in examining and to translate them into development-based issue. This medium seeks to provide a wide range of development that would cut across the various sections and groups of people.
Though democracy is widely preached in Ghana, dialogue in the rural area have turned to monologue in that the rural folk receive development packages from the government and rarely have a say in the usage of the packages.
To be precise, development in most democracies in Africa are based on surveys and expectancies of western powers, not the hungry, sick and naked poor African.
This article points out some of the factors that have prevented the realization of the expected development breakthroughs that Ghanaians and other West Africans in general have been looking for over the decades both during the pre-colonial and after independence.
Ghana, like many other African countries, is blessed with over-abundance of human and natural resources. With the Greenwich Meridian passing through it and the Equator just below it, Ghana is found in the centre of the world. Its geographical location offers it an extra unique position with an ecological wealth facilitated by the fair-share of solar and engeodetic opulence.
The vegetation naturally makes Ghana a place of high agricultural significance. The geological wealth is beyond description. Ghana is a country with bedrocks that also yield such pricey minerals as gold, manganese, diamonds, bauxite, clays of all types including white and red clays that could be used for colours (paint bases) and certain medicines.
Furthermore, the ecological and biodiversity resources of the country need not be overemphasized. The vegetation of Ghana cuts across coastal belts in the south through mangrove swamps, coastal savannah, derived savannah to forests zones ranging from semi-deciduous forests, to mention a few.
These are all a great demonstration of wealth. One would have thought that a country with such an over-abundance of wealth would have been developed beyond what one sees today. However, the opposite is the case in reality.
In spite of the over-abundance of wealth in Ghana, a country with an estimated populace of about 22 million, the poverty level is alarming and the concomitant effects culminate into today’s vices as the rampant armed robberies and indiscipline affecting our dear nation.
Where a nation is endowed with such massive wealth yet sharing is inequitable, where a people famish in overabundance, and where a people feel cheated in one way or the other, the attitude of relapsing into apathetic conditions, negativity and unruly behavior take over.
Development as would be used in this article encompasses the ability of a people in the management of the available resources at their disposal to the best of their advantage.
The management and appropriation of a people’s natural and human resources whereby a visual evidence of an improved living standards across board is seen by all is what one would term the holistic development.
This means a people directly enjoying an average relief and an average equal wealth manifesting in an evidential job satisfaction and less under-marginalization of the majority of the given populace.
Development is the ability to mange the national cake in such a way that a given populace appreciate the efforts being made to reduce financial, economic, health and the general quality of a people by a group of persons who would have accepted responsibility of over-seeing the fair-sharing of the people’s national cake. Furthermore, development is the conscious realization of a people to collectively, work towards the promotion and building of this nation.
The failure to motivate and encourage the populace to give their best to nation-building is a root cause of poverty, dissatisfaction in life, violence and atrocities which in effect leads to a general de-generation and economic and political chaos.
Given the presence of the huge natural resources found in Ghana, one is challenged to critically evaluate and seriously consider what could be done to intervene in the general depressing and stress-peaked of the masses. The common sense approach this paper would suggest is: our nation-building should lay emphasis on a serious management and appropriation of resources like the agro-products: covering the fauna and flora.
Ghana as a nation has a wide variety of food crops like yam, cereals, and different types of vegetables, fruits and animal foods. They have all not been tapped to the fullest. Concentrating critically just on these could be a very big breakthrough for the nation aside the availability of foods from animals.
Aside food availability, Ghana is additionally blessed with an averagely high range of annual rainfall. Rivers get flooded and both human and animal life gets threatened by rainfall even in Accra, the nation’s capital.
Our inability to rain-harvest, to direct and conserve drainage water, or surface water after a heavy tropical rainfall amounts to an enormous loss for this nation.
Quantifying this in monetary terms could be billions of cedis. Owing to our non-storage of water, our agro-based industrial revolution persuasions are woefully affected.
Water is also a source of electric power. As our very famous Akosombo Dam attests, hydro-electricity can be generated from water if properly processed. This definitely promotes productivity which leads to a rise of quality of standard of living. Unmistakably, small scale and rural industries stand to spring up and develop through rain-harvesting and water conservation for convertible potable power.
Not only that, our inability to harness solar energy is another big deficit to us as a developing nation and one often faced with energy crisis like the very recent one. The need for us to make paramount the conversion of energy from the sun into electrical power for our own usage cannot be over-emphasised.
The essence of uninterrupted electricity supply and its subsequent contribution to the economy and indeed all sectors of our daily lives is very significant. The recent power crisis affected many industries and firms adversely leading to low productivity, a situation which the ‘free’ sun and its solar energy can help us evade.
Least is said about our ability and seriousness in undertaking research on plant medicine. Plant and animals are important sources of raw-materials for the development of various medicines.
A sure way forward for the nation’s rapid development is to put a high premium in our own manufactured and home made goods, than promoting imported goods.
This means intensifying our research base, supporting young and up coming inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs in their inventive ventures. Further, the establishment of decentralized laboratories in the various regions as an attempt to accelerating promotion of locally produced medicine of equally high standard should be of high concern to the government and all other stake-holders.
The suppression and under-valuing of a people’s cultural heritage and their natural resources is sure ways of preventing and destroying their very basis for development of any kind. However, a careful study, analysis and recycling of existing resources empower, facilitate and enable a people to discover alternative productive and adaptable ways of promoting their own self-development and therefore that of the nation.
It means for a nation’s development, individual and collective concerns of a nation’s populace must be taken into serious consideration and thus encourage a social justice system that motivates, recognizes and rewards patriotic and innovative citizens who contribute to the development of the nation.
Conscious efforts to identify draw together and encourage less privileged people with equally high potential ensure the voiceless are heard and seen as also indispensable to a nation’s developments.
The rural populace comprising subsistence farmers, various craft and tradesmen and women across Ghana are the unseen, unclaimed and unacknowledged contributors to the nation’s economy yet the most financially little rewarded group of people.
For instance, Ntankro and Asanti-Akora in the Kintampo North District could be Ghana’s leading producers of yam and gari respectively, yet their average annual income falls woefully below expectation.
The over-abundance of untapped resources could be noticed in all other regions of Ghana, not least the Volta Region which possesses fruits, root crops like cassava, various types of yams and a whole lot more. The case is no different in the Central Region where suitable climate and vegetation promote large-scale farming and high agricultural yields.
Significantly, Ghana is bountifully endowed with a wide variety of agricultural products which are vastly underdeveloped, untapped to be responsible, informed or are in positions where they could have influenced rapid development of agro-based small-scale industries and ventures. Factors that prevent or hinder the full realization of our development goals are not far-fetched. These ranges from financial to the technological, including:
Lack of technical know-how (skills)
Lack of initiative, stamina, integrity, knowledge and tenacity at tackling problems in a systematic, consistent and long-suffering manner/approach.
- Lack of long-term planning, vision, and strategy etc.
- Lack of immediate and accessible funds or capital for innovative people.
- Lack of morale boosting mechanisms for even those who out of their own efforts are managing to undertake entrepreneurial ventures.
- Lack of acknowledgement, support and recognition contributed to our underdevelopment.
Most of these problems are linked to the negligence in standards of education and early childhood initiation into our various communities – socialization. To curb this, it is paramount that emphasis should be placed on practical and technical subjects right at the onset of basic level of education.
Also, alternative self-employment and handicraft manufacturing should be fundamental instructional courses in all educational institutions and workplaces so that people would have alternative sources of income.
It is the belief of this article that Theatre for Development can be the main engine of growth in human development. Our road to development and the healing process of our problems should start in our mind, believing in change and the urge to make things better for one another. Thus in a participatory cycle, Theatre for Development uses various systems and media in attacking and treating awareness at the grassroots level and among various classes of people.
Mainly using the bottom up approach, the communities have a hundred per cent control over the theatre performance. This comprises:
Story Creation; Casting; Character Analysis; Directing; Costumes and Makeup; Dance and Music.
Observation has revealed that to most people, development in the African context is striving to attain equal levels and life style with the Western world. This is erroneous; development is rather redefining development in the African context to suit the conditions and environment that mange the available resources to the maximum benefit of the people.
Development is the gradual transition from a low level to a higher level with improvement or total transformation of agriculture, education, technology, arts and culture, and firm hold of the economy. It is said that “if you are local you are global but if you are global you might not be local”. This throws light on the essence of development at the grassroots level, patriotism and the desire to develop traditions and cultures to effect change.
The main objective of Theatre for Development is helping people identify their problems and through the various discoveries, find solutions to them. It is mostly referred to as ‘theatre for the people, by the people, with the people’. It stands as one of the greatest forms of promoting democracy and a sense of belonging to a community.
Daily Graphic - Saturday, December 8, 2007 Page: 7 & 9
Monday, December 10, 2007 Page: 27