42. Theatre in the recent past used to be a very popular art in traditional African society. It used to be a point of intersection where members of the community not only come to entertain themselves, 'but join heads together'. In the traditional context of African drama, therefore, theatre was popular and respectable institution which preserved the people's culture and tradition. Theatre was popular with the people because it emphasized community participation, peace and progress. The presentations focused on the people's lives, their aspirations, fears, and hopes. But today, the situation is different. Theatre is becoming very unpopular.
Africa of the present age is pre-occupied with many problems yearning for immediate solutions. The continent is facing hydra-head challenges - challenges on the political, social, and economic scenes. In a world where Science and Technology are seen as the solutions to these problems, little attention is paid to the arts. Literature generally, and drama in particular is often rated very low on the utility-scale. Many Africa today look at drama and theatre as a mere thing of fun, a joke so to say.
Elitism is another barrier that militates against the appreciation of theatre as a communal art. Folk theatre is appreciated by a negligible number of people, contemporary focus is on literary theatre. Unfortunately, literary theatre only pretends to serve the interest of its society while in reality, it has a foreign audience in mind. The use of European and American theatrical conventions by our academic playwrights can bear witness to this anomaly.
The popularity of the literary African theatre is further marred by the medium of communication as most literary dramas in Africa are written in foreign languages which are not understood by many Africans. The question often asked is whether the artist should climb down to the level of his community of stay at his exalted height and wait for the community to gradually move up to him.