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Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu: the story of the African choir

Collins, Jane (2007) Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu: the story of the African choir. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 27 (2). pp. 95-114. ISSN 14682761 [Creative Arts and Design > Theatre studies]
Creators:Collins, Jane

This article is an extended version of two papers exploring White Spectatorship in Victorian Britain. The article describes the process and methodology of the practice-as-research project ‘The Story of the African Choir' that Collins developed with the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg between 2005-07. This work as well as revealing hidden aspects of the colonial period speculates about the extent to which the black educated middle class in the late nineteenth century exercised agency and self-determination in terms of the ways in which they ‘fashioned' their identity.

In the article Collins offers a critical perspective on the way in which this group attempted to construct a ‘stage' persona designed to meet the expectations of western audiences, and speculates about the extent to which the failure of the tour may be attributed to the Choir's failure to fulfil these expectations. Placing the work within the broader context of nineteenth century spectacle and using Erlmann's notion of the ‘co-authorship of identity as part and parcel of imperial practice', Collins argues that these aspects of the colonial past have not disappeared in the post-colonial era. Rather the mutual reinforcement of ‘false' identities continues as part and parcel of the trade in global cultural commodities. By implication this raises questions about the production and reception of current work from the continent of Africa and specifically the ways in which live performance is contributing to the construction of identity/identities in the relationships between South Africa and the West.

Official Website:http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Article,id=5370/
Type of Research:Article
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Jane Collins

Research Interests

Performance, specifically the relationship between word and image. Collaborative practice, the interface between 'performance art' and 'art performance' as a potential site for the making of new work Re-staging renaissance plays in ways which engage and challenge contemporary audiences. Scenography. New writing. Contemporary African Performance and the reception and perception of work from the continent of Africa on the world stage.


Jane Collins is a Reader in Theatre and Contextual Studies Co-ordinator for Theatre at Wimbledon. She is a writer, Director and theatre maker who works all over the UK and internationally. She has a long association with the continent of Africa and for The Royal Court, with the National Theatre of Uganda, she codirected Maama Nalukalala N_dezze Lye (Mother Courage and her Children) by Bertolt Brecht, with a Ugandan cast in Kampala. This production, which was the first official translation of a play by Brecht into an African language, toured internationally. Her AHRC funded research into 'performing identities' resulted in a new work for the stage The Story of the African Choir which was developed in conjunction with the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg and performed at the Grahamstown International Festival in 2007. Throughout 2008-09 her research was mainly engaged with co-editing Theatre and Performance Design: a reader in scenography, which was published by Routledge in January 2010. This book, with over 52 texts is the first of its kind in this field. In addition, in 2009, her practice based performance research included re-staging the award winning Ten Thousand Several Doors for the Brighton International Festival. Collins has been asked to contribute an essay on Ten Thousand Several Doors to the forth coming collection Performing Site-Specific Theatre edited by Anna Birch and Joanne Tompkins to be published in late 2011.
In November 2009 Collins was commissioned by the V&A to research and produce a soundscape to accompany the forthcoming Space and Light: Edward Gordon Craig exhibition which opens in London in September 2010 and tours to Europe in 2011. Edward Gordon Craig is credited with being the founder of modern stage design. Collins was also one of a group of artists who participated in re:SEARCHING playing in the archive an exhibition at the ING Bank in the city of London in May 2010 in response to the Baring archive.
Research Statement
My research continues to focus on performance and practise based research methodologies which re-engage the 'theatrical' as a means of interrogating contemporary society. In 2007 I wrote an article for Studies in Theatre and Performance which examined the efficacy of performance as a means of investigating the construction of post colonial identities through the 'staging' of an African 'past'. One aspect of this research was an analysis of the scenographic framing of these performances for western audiences. Among the many outcomes of this process was the identification of a dearth of material with which to interrogate critically the visual aspects of performance in particular and the scenographic in general. Concurrent with this, in my role as Contextual Studies Coordinator for Theatre at Wimbledon, I was also concerned that students of theatre designdid not have a comprehensive body of accessible written texts to help them situate their own work and analyse the work of others. Theatre and Performance Design, a reader in scenography aims to fulfil this need and continues to be the main focus of my research as a practitioner and in my critical writing.

Your affiliations with UAL:Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art
Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art
Date:01 June 2007
Digital Object Identifier:doi:10.1386/stap.27.2.95_1
Related Websites:http:\\www.ejpcollins.info, http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/stap.27.2.95_1
ID Code:1928
Deposited On:24 Sep 2009 14:09
Last Modified:25 Nov 2010 10:10
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