F.C.L. Bosman (1898-1981) was a prolific academic, theatre historian and cultural leader.
Born Frederik Christiaan Ludolph Bosman at Kuilsrivier, Cape Town, he was normally referred to by his initials, or as "Dr Bosman". He studied at the University of Cape Town and became a lecturer in Afrikaans there in 1928, having completed and published a doctoral thesis at the University of Amsterdam. He stayed at the University 1947. In 1948 he became the secretary to the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, a position he held till 1958.
During his retirement years he worked on the second volume of his magnum opus on South African drama and theatre, and had just seen it published in 1980, before his sudden and sad passing in 1981.
His contribution to drama and theatre in South Africa
He published a number of important literary historical books and articles on drama in South Africa over the years, and his most valuable cultural contribution is most probably his almost single-handed creation of a tradition of theatre research in the country - as researcher and as an avid collector of Africana - particularly works on South African theatre and music. The immense archive of material he had collated on theatre music and art over the years went to two institutions after his death: The Human Sciences Research Council's Centre for South African Theatre Research (CESAT) (later moved to the State Archives in Pretoria) and the Nasionale Afrikanse Literêre Museum en Navorsingsentrum (NALN).
His doctoral thesis, a comprehensive study of drama and theatre in South Africa between 1652 and 1855, is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring and meticulous pieces of historical research in the field to date. It was published in Afrikaans under the title Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika (Deel I: 1652-1855) ("Drama and Theatre in South Africa. Part 1: 1652-1855") was published in 1928. This first volume in particular has become the source for most information on the 18th and 19th century theatre. (This was out of print for more than 50 years, but has since been digitalized by the DBNL)
Long promised, but not completed untill 1980, was the second Afrikaans volume of Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika (Deel II: 1856-1912), ("Drama and Theatre in South Africa. Part II: 1856-1912"). Though this is an inferior work to the first volume and rather derivative of writings by other critics (for example Laidler, and Boonzaaier), it is nevertheless an extremely useful resource. He published many other shorter works on drama and theatre, in Afrikaans and English, including shorter overviews to a large extend based on the two key studies. In addition to and flowing from this research, his editorial contribution through annotated volumes such as C.E. Boniface's De Nieuwe Ridderorde of De Temperantisten (1954) and the volume Di Bedriegers, Magrita Prinslo en Ander Afrikaanse Dramas en Samesprake tot 1900 (1975).
He is also the author of a volume of poetry entitled Pluksels (1932).
As a lecturer he supervised theses by several other scholars working in the field, notably the influential doctoral study by Ludwig Bingeon the 20th century history of Afrikaans theatre , which he edited for publication after the author's untimely demise.
In broader terms he played a role in promoting cultural activity in the country, more specifically Afrikaans culture. In his role as member, and later secretary, of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, he played a strong advisory role within the theatre industry over the years. For example in Die Burger (10 October, 1936) he proposed a better coordination of theatre, particularly the Afrikaans professional theatre, in the country, asking the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns and the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge to take a hand, which led to the founding of the Toneelbond in 1937. Though this was barely successful, it would be an idea he would regularly propose over the years.
In 1948 he became a member of the management board of the National Theatre Organisation.
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