International Essays on Theatre for Young Audiences- A Publication of ASSITEJ and ITYARN
Edited By Manon van de Water
Conceptualization of Child and Childhood in Nigerian Theatre: A Dwindling Phenomenon?
Pamela Arnold Udoka Introduction Theatre has always been a veritable medium in the inculcation of values among Nigerian cultures before the advent of colonialism. As an informal method of social- ization in society, children between the ages of four to teenage used to gather around adult storytellers who, as master conjurors, would use their stories to transport them from the real world to the imaginary world. In the imaginary world, everything was possible: the good overcoming the evil; the hero overpowering the villain; truth subduing falsehood; and so forth. This informal theatre setting, where oration, role playing, singing, clapping, and dancing were elements into the world of make-be- lieve, suffered a steep decline (and perhaps extinction) with the advent of Christian and Islamic teachings and eventually the formal declaration of colonial and impe- rial authority over the area now known as Nigeria. Whether in the traditional or modern setting, theatre as it relates to children is an indisputable phenomenon that necessarily must exist in correspondence with the physiological and psychological considerations and needs of those for which it is designed and intended for: children. In order to contextualize the thrust of this essay, it is necessary to define the terms used here. Since childhood is a period for growth—change brought about by influences, actions and inactions—the terms child, childhood, and Nigerian theatre need to be defined. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines a child as “a young human who is not yet an adult.” Drawing from psychology, childhood...
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