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THE HISTORY OF NATIONAL THEATRE

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INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Theatre arose as a performance of ritual activities that did not require initiation on the part of the spectator. This similarity of early theatre to ritual is negatively attested by Aristotle, who in his Poetics defined theatre in contrast to the performances of sacred mysteries: theatre did not require the spectator to fast, drink the kykeon, or march in a procession; however theatre did resemble the sacred mysteries in the sense that it brought purification and healing to the spectator by means of a vision, the theama. The physical location of such performances was accordingly named theatron. According to the historians Oscar Brockett and Franklin Hildy, rituals typically include elements that entertain or give pleasure, such as costumes and masks as well as skilled performers. As societies grew more complex, these spectacular elements began to be acted out under non-ritualistic conditions. As this occurred, the first steps towards theatre as an autonomous activity were being taken

In Nigeria some early artifacts which were collected by K.C. Murray and some excavations which revealed the Nok, Igboukwu and Ife artifacts to mention but a few gave insight into the rich heritage of Art objects, religion and cultural practices which made the society a dynamic socio-cultural religious entity.

The ancestors of the Nigerian ethnic groups bequeathed objects especially sculptural forms in wood, metal, ivory and terracotta. According to Eze (2008) “These materials were used by early sculptors using simple tools and hands to turn them into sculptural pieces.” Symbolism was the driving force which produced the art works that were used for utility, religious worship and the development of the ethnic groups.

Art, religion and the development of Nigerian ethnic group is not separated from each other. They complement each other and keep the traditional society going and alive.

Anyachonkeye (2006) states:Our people are guided by their ethos, the things they value and revere. They are firm believers in their cultural heritage the things that hold and bind them together. The norm and moral ethics cannot be extricated from their material and non-material culture-morals, religion, food habit, dialect, values system and others.

Many Nigerian traditional ethnic groups in effect practiced art and religion in order to communicate with their gods because of their belief in the human soul and spirit which are ever at work. Some of these gods were worshipped in shrines with art objects. This kept the societies intact and developed.

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