The Reimaging Tragedy from Africa and the Global South (RETAGS) project, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is an innovative five-year research project that began in 2019. This project proposes to take a concept – tragedy – from the very beginnings of theatre in its European manifestation and to reimagine it from a perspective in Africa that is directed at the complex challenges of our global postcolonial present and towards our possible futures both inside and outside of the discipline.

The project is led by Prof. Mark Fleishman with Mandla Mbothwe, and aims to understand how tragedy has been refigured in the post-colonial theatre; how moments of tragic excess are enacted outside of the theatre in the course of revolts against neo-colonial establishments and forces; and, in an embodied, performative manner, how tragedy might be utilized as a tool for understanding the present regime of time and its performative effects in the global neo-colonial complex that characterizes the world as it is emerging now across all hemispheres.

It is a project that will radically reorient thinking about theatre by shifting its dominant perspectives; re-read the postcolony through the frame of tragedy; explore the relevance of tragedy for a young generation today; while adopting a methodology rooted in art practice. One of the aims of the project is to enable training for a new generation of African Theatre and Performance scholars and provide a vehicle and catalyst for the development of research capacities and a community of researchers in the newly formed Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies in the faculty of Humanities at UCT.