H.I.E. Dhlomo

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H.I.E. Dhlomo (1904-1956) was a South African actor, writer, dramatist, director, animator, journalist and cultural theorist.


Born Herbert Isaac Ezra Dhlomo at Siyamu, near Pietermaritzburg. Graduated of Amanzimtoti College, became a journalist on Bantu World and Ilanga lase Natal. Organiser of the Carnegie Library in Germiston. He wrote a number of important articles on “African theatre” (see References). Directed his brother Rolfes’s “dramatic sketches” for the Emancipation Centenary Celebrations at the Bantu Men's Social Centre in 1934. Later the vice-president of the Bantu Dramatic Society *** (??) and wrote ** plays in English, of which one - Nonqause: The Girl who Killed to Save - was published in 1936, the only play published in his lifetime and the first published English play by a black South African. The rest of the plays were only published in 1985 as a collection entitled Collected Works. (Edited by Tim Couzens and Nick Visser) He wrote a historical play called Dingane as well as a play about Shaka which was to be grouped with Moshoeshoe, Cetshwayo and collectively called The Black Bulls (1936-38). He also wrote urban plays such as Ruby and Frank (1939), The Workers and The Pass (1941-43)****. His biography (The New African: A Study of the Life and Work of H.I.E. Dhlomo) was writtten by Tim Couzens and published in 1985. (See: Couzens, 1985, De Beer, 1995).

In 1933 he founded the Bantu Dramatic Society in Johannesburg. He wrote a considerable body of dramatic theory & criticism & numerous plays which allegorised black African history for his contemporaries.

In 1983 a group of artists, aware of the contribution made by Dhlomo, founded and named a theatre after him: The Dhlomo Theatre (situated a hundred yards from the Market Theatre) It opened on 21 March 1983 with Night of the Long Wake by Dukuza ka Macu.

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

Awards, etc


Tim Couzens. 1985. The New African: A Study of the Life and Work of H.I.E. Dhlomo. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.

Mona de Beer. 1995. Who Did What in South Africa. Johannesburg: Ad Donker.

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