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Unlocking the past: encountering history through museum theatre, as explored in the KwaMuhle Museum, Durban.

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This thesis explores the use of museum theatre as a means to teach, learn about and interrogate past narratives through the use of performance in places of historical significance. The research is situated within the discipline of drama and performance studies, and focuses specifically on performing history in museums. The study adopts a case study approach, using a self-written and directed museum theatre production Beer Halls, Pass Laws and Just Cause in the KwaMuhle Museum (the former Native Administration Department) in Durban, South Africa. Through the creation and staging of the museum theatre production specifically aimed at Grade 11 learners who are taking the subject of History, the performance adopts an experiential learning approach that engages the senses, minds, bodies and emotions of the attendants. The play feeds into and out of the Term 4 Grade 11 Curriculum and Policy Statement (CAPS) History syllabus, mainly through re-enacted verbatim accounts, in which the learners are encouraged to participate. The performance and study aim to move beyond book learning, through adopting critical pedagogical theorical frameworks, that encourage critical thinking and active engagement (a combination of mental, physical and emotional learning) of the learners with the actorguides, the performed narratives, the museum site and their fellow attendants. In addition, arts-based methods, including the use of objects, poetry and drawing, are employed as one form of data analysis, in addition to focus groups and interviews, to reflect, express and share what was experienced by the learners, teachers and members of the public in the performance. Through the inclusion of performance in historical spaces, the past can be brought into the present to encourage dialogic learning where different narratives are brought into contact with one another through site-specific work.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.