SOAS University of London: Eritrea “Surviving with theatre”

SOAS University London
SOAS University London

German literature scholar to hold lecture on Eritrean theatre culture during the War of Independence.

Dr. Matzke joined the University of Bayreuth in spring 2011. She taught literature and theatre in the Department of New Literatures in English at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main (2001-2003) and the African Studies Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2003-2010). 

She has researched and published extensively on Eritrean theatre. Her research and teaching interests include African theatre and performing arts (with a focus on the Horn of Africa, particularly Eritrea), British Drama since 1890, Anglophone African literature, popular literature (esp. crime fiction), women’s writing, concepts of diaspora, and historiography.

Dr Christine Matzke will hold a lecture on the role of theatre during the Eritrean War of Independence at the University of London on the 21, February 2014 at 1:30 pm,  Room Brunei Gallery: B111.

During the Eritrean war of independence against Ethiopia (1961-1991), culture played a prominent role as a means of creative self-definition, but also as a medium of entertainment, education and socio-political control.

In this lecture, I will trace the history of performance culture in both liberation movements – the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) – starting with the much-neglected cultural troupes of the ELF, and continuing with selected aspects of EPLF performance culture, largely after the Strategic Retreat in 1978.


While I will enquire into the ‘functions’ of performance in relation to mechanisms for survival, I will also examine the dangers coming from theatre practice itself.

These include actors being shot on stage by fans or attacked off stage by outraged spectators; audience members fainting or fleeing after taking performances ‘for real’; or the hazard coming from substances artists had to work with for lack of appropriate materials.

Survival (with) theatre also included the necessity to instantly switch from costume making to sewing gas masks. Life was immensely hazardous in the liberation war and did not allow for a sharp distinction between culture, creativity and combat.

By Editorial Team

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