Gerhard J. Beukes

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Gerhard J. Beukes (1913 - 1998) was a South African academic, cultural activist and prolific Afrikaans playwright and compiler of plays.

Also known as Gerhard Beukes, G.J. Beukes or Gerhard Johannes Beukes.


Born Gerhard Johannes Beukes on 21 November 1913 on the farm Biesjespoort near Upington, Northern Cape. One of seven children, he only began school at eleven years of age in a farms chool, then and continued his schooling at Keimoes en in 1932 matriculated from the high school at Upington. He studied Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of Stellenbosch (BA 1935, Senior Teacher's Diploma 1936), then completed an MA on Afrikaans poetry at the University of South Africa (1939) and in 1946 a doctorate (D.Litt) at the University of Pretoria with a thesis on the modern one-act play. This led him to theatre and drama as a creative field. In 1956 he obtained a Carnegie-burasry to spend 3 months in the USA to study cuyrrent trends in theatre.

Married Isabella Pretorius in 1940, and had two sons: Johann and Gerhard. His wife passed away in 1992 and in 1994 he married Marie Lategan.

Beukes passed away in Bloemfontein in 1998.

His sister, Lalie Beukes (1916-2009),a well known primary school teacher, also wrote some plays.

Academic career

After 10 years teaching at schools, beginning at Michaelhouse in Natal in 1937, and ending at Pretoria Boys’ High School, he became a lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch at the then University College of the Orange Free State (UKOVS in 1947. He remained a lecturer at what later became the University of the Orange Free State (and ultinately the University of the Free State) till his retirement in 1978. He was made a professor in 1961 and in 1973 became Head of the Department of Afrikaans en Nederlands ("Afrikaans and Dutch").

Beukes retired from academia in 1978

Contribution to South African theatre and performance

As playwright

While a teacher he began writing plays for children and adults, both numerous one-act plays and full length works.

His full length plays include:

Die Swart Engel ("The black angel") (perf 1946, pub 1947), Salomé Dans! (1950), Langs die steiltes(1952, perf 1953), As ons twee eers getroud is! (1952); Jesus van Nasaret (1954), Verkiesing sonder politiek! (perf 1955, pub. 1956), Judas van Keriot (1959), Die Vonkel in Haar Oë! (perf 1960, pub. 1960), Man van Keriot (1976),

His many one-act plays include:

Laat die kerse brand! (1945);Oktobernag (1946); Bo-op die berge (1947), Die vrees (1948); Kerse Teen die Wind! (1950), Mamma het Planne (1950, aka Die Noîentjie het Planne!, 1969), Speurhonde van die Dood (1954); As die Nefie kom Kuier! (19**), Die Winde van U Toorn, In my Dae, Die Hand wat hy eenmaal geneem het, Die Braaiboud (19**), Iewers Langs die Pad (1967), Viertal (1968),Uur van die waarheid (1969), Familieportret (19**).

Most of his one act plays were published in a variety of collections, often edited by himself for J.L. van Schaik publishers.

In 1978 Charles Malan edited Kortgesprek ("Short discussion"), a selection from Beukes's one-act plays, published under Beukes's name by J.L. van Schaik, in celebration of the author's 65th birthday and his retirement from the University.

As translator

Besides translations of works by Trygve Gulbranssen and Khalil Gibran, he also translated Molière's Tartuffe ou L'Imposteur into Afrikaans as Die huigelaar (Pretoria: Van Schaik, 1970).

As compiler and editor

In his zeal to promote drama in Afrikaans, Beukes became the most prolific compiler and editor of play collections in South African history, producing numerous anthologies of plays for the publishers J.L. van Schaik over the course of more than 40 years. Most of these were intended for use by schools, universities and amateur companies and encompassed a number of collections of his own short plays, as well as general collections, usually containing one of his own texts alongside works by other playwrights.

Among the collections are: Laat die kerse brand; en ander eenbedrywe (1945), Ses Eenbedrywe (1946), Uitgesoekte Eenbedrywe (1948), Kerse Teen die Wind: Tien Eenbedrywe, Nuwe Eenbedrywe (1952), Vyf Nuwe Eenbedrywe (1957), Skerm en Masker (1958), Kom Ons Speel Toneel (1959, 1963), Spele vir die Jongspan (1959), Woord en Masker (1964), Twee Sente vir ’n Pêrel: Drie Eenbedrywe vir die Jeug Byeengebring (1968), Die Nôientjie het Planne! Vier Ligte Eenakters (1969), Uur Van Waarheid: Vier Kortspele (1969), Vier Nederlandse Eenbedrywe (1970), Iewers Langs die Pad (1970), Skuif Oop die Gordyn! (1982), Roep van die Naguiltjie en Ander Eenbedrywe (1983), ’n Lag en ’n Traan (1988) and Spel en Spelers (1988).

Many of these editions were reprinted numerous times.

As academic writer

Die Moderne Eenbedryf ("The Modern One-act Play"), a published version of his 1947 doctoral thesis.

Skrywers en Rigtings ("Writers and Directions"), a widely used handbook on Afrikaans literature, co-edited with Felix Lategan. Beukes also wrote the section on Drama.

As lecturer and mentor

A kind and gentle man with a genuine fondness for his students, he was an immensely engaging and enthusiastic lecturer with a passion for Afrikaans literature and particularly drama. Over his many years at the University, Beukes inspired many young writers and academics to contribute to the canaon of Afrikaans writing.

Cultural actitivities and contributions

Much involved in cultural work, he was a member of Volksteater in Pretoria, particularly involved in their children's theatre project (1941) and was also involved with FATSSA, NTO and other similar organizations.

He became a member (and chairman 1973–1975) of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, Chairman of the Kommissie vir Woordkuns ("Commission for Verbal Arts") of the Nasionale Kultuurraad ("National Cultural Council" - 1973-4), and member of the executive of the Federasie vir Afrikaans Kultuurvereniginge (FAK - 1973-6). He was the co-founder of a number of organizations, including the National Drama Library and DALRO. In 1977 he was made a member of the committee created by the Department of National Education to study and make recommendations regarding Amateur Theatre in South Africa.


1948: Winner of the FATSA competion for one-act plays: Die vrees

1952: The Hertzog Prize for drama for his three plays As ons twee eers getroud is, Langs die steiltes en Salomé dans!. He controversially shared the Prize with W.A. de Klerk, in a time when all expectations were that Uys Krige would be the winner.

1952: The Van Riebeeck Festival prize for drama for As ons twee eers getroud is

1959: Prize of the NG Kerk-uitgewers (on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the South African Bible Society) for Judas van Keriot

1984: Made an Honorary Member of SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns



Stellenbosch Writers website [1]

Afrikaans Wikipedia [2]

Du Toit, Petrus Jacobus 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica.

Erika Terblanche, biography of Gerhard J. Beukes in LitNet (2014-08-21)[3]

Copy of a catalogue (handwritten by various hands) of the F.C.L. Bosman collection held at the Nasionale Afrikaanse Letterkunde Museum en Navorsingsentrum (NALN) in Bloemfontein.

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