Week 9 Blog Post

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is trying to explain that the state as an actor is inherently powerful. It’s actions are always a performance of power over the people within the state. The artist, however, is not inherently powerful. The action of creating art is what empowers the artist, and the artist can only be powerful with its art. The artist is made an artist by doing art, and the artist’s influence is through the performance of that art. The state in all of its actions is exercising power over people and norms of social and political life, and because of this works to maintain allegiance from its people to its laws. The artist has to sway the audience to listen to their message through the art that they produce.

Arturo Ui is an example of a piece of theater that was more powerful because of the space that it was performed in. The play about a fascist dictator relies on the fact that Hitler once sat in the seats of that theater when it pulls the audience on stage to see the final scene play out in the center balcony. The fact that fascism played out in real life in that space and the deep historical impact of Hitler’s regime on that space make the themes of the play that much more poignant. Even though it is not in the same time of Hitler’s regime (although the political state of the US might have made this more poignant for American audience members), the location makes these themes ever present and immediate. Audience members cannot help but be weary of the signs of fascist rulers because the tangible evidence of these events is presented in the seats that they were sitting in.

One thought on “Week 9 Blog Post

  1. Hi Ruva,
    What a great response. In fact, that is exactly what Wa Thiong’o is alluding to — that not only does the state regulate how we can live our lives, we see its power being staged at places like checkpoints, at immigration stations at airports, in the spectacle of police patrols, guards in front of buildings, and security cameras. The state doesn’t just regulate us — it makes a show of who gets regulated more and who gets regulated less. So much of this is to instill fear and keep bodies in their proper places. The state has the force to do all of these things and the artist has none– only her or his imagination. So I love the example of the Polish Arturo Ui that made good use of the theater to remind us that the theater was used to promote the Fascist regime — and at the same time stage a play that is, at its core, anti-fascist. You got right to the heart of the argument here. Great job.


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