Bartho Smit

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bartholomeus Jacobus "Bartho" Smit (1924–1986) was a South African writer, poet, dramatist, director and a founding member of the Sestigers Movement and the Skrywersgilde in the 1980s. He was awarded the Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Drama in 1978.



Bartho Smit was born on 15 July 1924 in Klerkskraal, near Ventersdorp, South Africa. He matriculated in Standerton in the Transvaal and went on the study at the University of Pretoria.


He graduated from the University of Pretoria with a BA Degree in 1949 and a MA Degree in 1951.


While working for his Masters Degree in Pretoria Smit met the actress Kita Redelinghuys and in 1949 they were married. From 1952 to 1957 they toured Paris, Munich and London where he furthered his studies in Philisophy and also Drama. While in Europe they met and became close friends with South African author Jan Rabie. When they returmed to South Africa Smit became involved in Afrikaans literature as arts editor for publications like Dagbreek and Sondagnuus, as a publisher at the Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel and as editor of magazines such as 60, Kol and Sestiger.

Bartho Smit died of cancer on 31 December 1986 in Johannesburg.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Began as a poet, joined Perskor as a popular and inspirational publisher and became a founding member of the Sestiger Movement and the Skrywersgilde in the 1980s. Went to Germany to finish his doctorate in philosophy, but never did, for he got to know theatre there and returned prepared to become a dramatist and director. Marriage to actress Kita Redelinghuys reinforced his interest in drama as a medium. An intellectual and highly experimental writer with a respect for theatrical tradition and a flair for the dramatic and metaphoric, Smit’s work is vastly eclectic and often slightly cumbersome – yet memorable. He also directed many of his own plays over the years. Made his name with a few experiments with the realistic one act play, including his earliest work – Meisies van Vervloë Dae - and the play that established his reputation as dramatist, the haunting Moeder Hanna. Both produced by NTO in their NTO Kamertoneel in 1959, directed by Smit himself. He then moved on to the more highly charged and serious political work such as Die Verminktes (Tr: “The Maimed” S: in English in London: 1960, in Afrikaans by PACT: 1977; Tr: 1960, P: 1960??**), Putsonderwater (Tr: “Well-without-water, or The Virgin and the Vultures - S: PACOFS: 1969, Tr: 19**, P: 1962), Christine (S: 19**, P: 19**), and the satirical political comedy of Don Juan onder die Boere (“Don Juan among the Farmers/Boers” - S: 1960, P: 1960??**), Bacchus in die Boland (“Bacchus in the Boland” -S: 19**, P: 19**)and Die Keiser (“The Emperor”- S: 19**, P: 19**) to the frothy expertise of Die Man met 'n Lyk om sy Nek. (“Man with a corpse around his neck” - S: 19**, P: 19**). On occasion acted as adjudicator for the FATSSA Play Festival. Smit is perhaps the most banned playwright in South African history, with virtually all his plays running into trouble (see entries on the individual plays). At the same time his superb translations of Moliére, Ionesco, ***, *** and *** were published in 19** and brought him many awards, including the **** Award. He was finally awarded the Hertzog Prize for Drama in 1978 in recognition of his work as dramatist with special mention of his plays Christine, Moeder Hanna, Putsonderwater and Die Verminktes (Beeld, 29 Apr 1978). His spirit lives on in a new generation of Afrikaans writers: Reza de Wet, Deon Opperman, Charles Fourie.

SMIT, Bartho. Afrikaans playwright. He wrote Moeder Hanna which the National Theatre staged in 1959. His Afrikaans translation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, directed by Fred Engelen with Anna Neethling-Pohl, was staged at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre in 1962. Ricky Arden directed his Die Man met 'n Lyk om sy Nek for PACT at the Intimate in 1966.

Published Dramas

Moeder Hanna, 1955

Don Juan onder die Boere, 1960

Die Verminktes, 1960

Putsonderwater: ’n toneelstuk in vier dele, 1962

Die Man met 'n Lyk om sy Nek: ’n moord-komedie, 1967

Christine, 1971

Die Man met die Alibi, 1971

Bacchus in die Boland, 1974

Die Keiser: variasies op ’n sprokie van Hans Andersen, 1977

Awards, etc

1960: Encyclopaedia Britannica Award for his English translation of his play Die Verminktes (The Maimed).

1978: Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans drama for Putsonderwater, Moeder Hanna, Christine and Die Verminktes.

1979: Preskor Prize for Literature for his play Die Keiser.


See: SATJ Sept. 1987; Malan, 19**, Kannemeyer, 19**; Tucker, 1997

Wikipedia [1]

Afrikaans Wikipedia [2]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to ESAT Personalities S

Return to South African Theatre Personalities

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page