Winner Africa Thesis Award 2014: Pedzisai Maedza - Theatre of testimony: an investigation in devising asylum

The Africa Thesis Award 2014 was won by Pedzisai Maedza from Zimbabwe who graduated in the Department of Drama at the University of Cape Town. Pedzisai won the Award for his Masters thesis 'Theatre of testimony: an investigation in devising asylum'. The prize of 1000 euro was handed over to Pedzisai in person by Nicky Pouw, chair of the jury, during the Africa Works! conference on 17 October 2014 in Leiden. (Photo: Maaike Westra).

Read the full text of the thesis.


Abstract 'Theatre of testimony: an investigation in devising asylum'
The use of testimonies in performance is enjoying increased artistic and critical popularity on contemporary world stages and has a long and rich tradition in South Africa. Both internationally and locally, emerging and established playwrights working on migration and refugee issues are seeking to incorporate the testimony of asylum seekers in their work. This necessitates critical reflect on the influences that shape and structure the staging of testimonies.

Moral complexities of the playwright
This study argues that increased migration and the mounting numbers of asylum seekers in South African have motivated at times violent interaction between host communities and the new arrivals. These incidents have inspired a distinct trend of testimonial performances around the concept of asylum. This dissertation uses Narrative Analysis to read examples of contemporary testimony plays that examine this phenomenon. The study examines how playwright positioning informs the structuring of asylum testimonies on stage, in addition to contextualizing the ethical and moral complexities that the playwright’s positionality places on their practice. Through three case studies, the study questions how playwright positioning informs notions of authorship, authenticity, truth, theatricality and ethics. The study also investigates the challenges that speaking for ‘self’ and speaking for the ‘other’ place on testimonial playwrights. (Photo: Jonathan K. Nkala en route to Cape Town, scene from the play 'The Crossing' )

Jury: very high quality of submitted theses
In total 23 theses were submitted for the Africa Thesis Award 2014. The scientific quality was on average very high this year, which made the jury’s task not an easy one. This is why the runner-up thesis also qualifies to be mentioned here: Enid Guene with her thesis ‘Copper, Borders and Nation-Building: The Katangese Factor in Zambian Economic and Political History’. Given the close finish between numbers 1 and 2, the jury has decided that both theses will be published in book form by the African Studies Centre. Like Pedzisai Moadza's thesis, Enid Guene's thesis can also be read online.

All jury members are thanked for their careful reading of all theses and well thought through final decision: Ineke van Kessel, Jan-Bart Gewald, Yinka Akinyoade and Wim Bossema. Read the full jury report.

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