In the film version of John Le Carré’s The Constant Gardener (2005), a scene set in the slum of Kibera in Kenya dwells over a piece of educational theatre about HIV. Performed in the open air on a raised platform with a painted backdrop, the short extract from the play Huruma is framed by the crowds waiting for the train to pass, the detritus of human settlement amidst livestock and open sewers, and the shacks. On stage, the vividly dressed but very thin women sweep the floor, demonstrating their housekeeping skills to well-dressed men of marriageable age. The actors speak in unison, as it is announced that the well-dressed men have tested positive for ‘AIDS’, and the sweepers back off rapidly. They react to a collective sneeze by the well-dressed men, no longer marriageable, telling them to keep ‘it’ to themselves. The scene turns to show the sweeping women, embarrassed by their

lack of humanity, pleading with the HIV positive men to stay, asking that they should ‘continue as we once were’ in the community. The scene is met with laughter from the audience as stereotypes are recognised and ironies revealed. The theatrical style is large and loud, unison choral work carries the words across the open space. The play is instructive of the need to be compassionate to HIV positive members of the community. This scene from the film is what most people worldwide envisage as

educational theatre in Africa, perhaps even typical of all African theatre. This may be with good reason since educational theatre has a long history in Africa, deriving from oral performance traditions, the theatre for development movement, anti-apartheid and anti-colonial theatre, as well as models from elsewhere in the world. At the time of

writing, health education through theatre is probably the most widely known manifestation, but for this chapter to focus exclusively on health education through theatre would do a disservice to the theatre makers and educators who do this and more on the continent. This chapter will therefore introduce some of the ways in which

theatre companies seek to develop critical thinking and social commentary on identity, history, governance and heritage in sub-Saharan Africa, using examples from Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Several TIE initiatives at universities will be briefly considered, as well as the dilemma of funding educational theatre, before a more extended discussion of health education through theatre. Limitations of space and the sheer breadth of the continent’s practices mean that the majority of the study will focus on South Africa, but a few examples from elsewhere in southern Africa will also be discussed.2 The chapter will try to assess what has been done recently in the field of educational theatre, especially in South Africa since the end of apartheid. Inevitably, considering South Africa post-1994 raises the question of

what innovation may have been produced in the climate of freedom from apartheid. This chapter will suggest that, while many programmes have been developed in southern Africa, education through theatre has been deeply compromised by intractable attitudes, on the part of governments and funders, to the arts in education. The sector is beset with poor infrastructure and organisation, and lack of sustained funding. There is a tension between the role of the arts as education and social commentary, and their perceived position as part of a ‘knowledge and creative economy’. African governments and funders are increasingly requiring that the arts become self-funded and sustainable, treating them as a consumer item. This leaves little room for theatre committed to education and development that arose in opposition to systematic underdevelopment and inequity.