PACE Dramaturgical Lab 2021

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Decolonizing Dramaturgy in Contemporary Performing Arts

The 2021 PACE+ Dramaturgical Lab follows the successful Lab that was held in Bloemfontein during PACE+ 2019 and the lessons we have learnt in 2020 with PACE Entangled online. PACE+ is a unique platform held in the interim years between the Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE), to help artists reflect on, and further develop, their work in preparation for future international collaborative & touring opportunities (and a potential PACE Showcase).

The works of artists based in Africa often sit at the nexus of a variety of performance traditions. Much of their work comes out of self-directed research – through attending workshops, intensives or undergoing personal research projects which might exist as part of their rehearsal processes. Since critical discourse and theories on African performance made for ticket buying or curated audiences is limited, their work often is wrongly evaluated by western models. Their work also runs the risk of being misunderstood by audiences both at home and abroad and being stifled before it can reach its full potential.

Dramaturgy is not peculiar to western performance tradition. Different theatre traditions have ways in which dramaturgical practices and processes are performed. Regardless of the cultural context and creative content, the dramaturgical process requires thorough inquiry, robust research, and unbiased exploration of various intercultural and various aspects of people, history, and community existence. *

Dramaturges can examine ethical and critical issues around power, privilege, representation, and positionality in their processes without compromising the aesthetics of the art form. As a sociological art and act, dramaturgy involves identifying and employing semiotics and theatrical metaphors to explore issues of identity formation and reformation. It also serves as a model for agency, awareness, and engagement especially in how institutions and power shape creative processes and stage re/presentation. *

The PACE+ Dramaturgical Lab is an interdisciplinary and collaborative space. The lab does not focus on any one art form. It rather provides an opportunity for artists to interrogate their way of working, find new artistic processes for making work, and consider new ways of positioning their work in society. The aim is to give artists the space to find ways of continuing and developing careers as artists and cultural practitioners. The artists will leave with goals and ideas of how they will implement what they discover as well as with many new international connections.

PACE+ Dramaturgical Lab 2021 consists of 5 online gatherings and 1 online networking event on Saturdays between October 9th and December 11th, 2021. It is an exploration into the meaning of Dramaturgy and the different dramaturgical roles that exist and provide participants with tools to implement dramaturgy into their own work or the artistic creations of others. The lab also runs in conjunction with Dr. Taiwo Afolabi’s Howlround (podcast) series on ‘Decolonizing Dramaturgy in Contemporary Theatre’. PACE provides a small stipend to the lab’s participants to help artists during these difficult times and make sure that everyone has internet access. This year’s lab has 11 participants from Africa and its diaspora that are based in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Lesotho, China, Uganda, Senegal, Brazil, Canada, Barbados, Kenya & South Africa.

The PACE+ Dramaturgical Lab 2021 is in partnership with the international Vrystaat Arts Festival in Bloemfontein and is supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.

(*) From Taiwo Afolabi’s Routledge Dramaturgy Series

Lab participants 2021

Afonso Costa


Rita and Pardal’s son, is a Brazilian interdisciplinary artist with a degree in performing arts from the University of São Paulo. He dialogues with the narrative practices of life through live arts, dance and performance. Over the past three years, he has been studying the decolonial distinctions between hegemonic narratives and dissident pluri-versal narratives from a Eurocentric perspective of existence in the urban territory of the city of São Paulo,

Brazil. Along with the word, Afonso narrates his paths starting from the borders invented by the colonial world that sacked the lands that we know today as Brazil.

Website https://asonsa.weebly.com/


John Namai


works as a professional storyteller, facilitator, festival producer, arts educator and community organizer in Nairobi Kenya.

With Zama Leo ACT, I help organize the annual Sigana International Storytelling festival to promote the art of storytelling. Together with the organization TICAH(Traditional indigenous culture and heritage), I have been using storytelling to disseminate knowledge at the National museums of Kenya and wider community

through various workshops and am an award winning recipient of the awesome foundation

grant 2015 to transform Nairobi using stories.


NTANGAARE, Mercy Mirembe


is a playwright, folklorist, theatre maker, educationist, and producer of children’s and young people’s theatre with MEBO Theatre Documentaries Limited that she founded in 2006. She is Associate Professor of Drama at Makerere University Kampala. She writes plays, short stories, essays, and children’s books.