Hennie Aucamp

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Hennie Aucamp (1934-2014) [1] was a prolific and highly regarded writer of Afrikaans short stories, poetry, cabarets, plays, sketches, lyrics.


Born Hendrik Christoffel Lourens Aucamp on 20 Januarie 1934 in the Eastern Cape town of Dordrecht, raised on the farm Rust-mijn-ziel on the Stormberg highlands, in the district of Jamestown, where he also went to school and matriculated in 1951. He began writing stories when nine years old, publishing in a variety of journals for the youth, and his first in an adult journal (Die Huisgenoot) in his matriculation year.

He was an enthusiastic, immensely well read and articulate individual, with a wide reaching interest in all the arts, and a prolific writer in many literary forms.

He had one sister, Rina.


Studied at the University of Stellenbosch from 1952, obtaining a BA degree (1955teaching diploma in 1957, a Masters degree in 1958. In 1963 he set out for Belgium on a study bursary, attending the University of Leuven and completing a doctorate, concentrating on aspects of teaching literature at high school level - a field in which he would work at the University of Stellenbosch. In this period he was also exposed to the theatre of Europe,


Teaching career

Between 1959-1962 he taught in Stellenbosch, Jamestown, Cradock and Rondebosch, twice also acting as temporary lecturer in the Education Department at the University of Stellenbosch. He would later become a permanent lecturer and professor in the faculty of Education at the same university, also teaching creative writing skills - remaining there till his retirement in ***.

Literary career

While he wrote poems, plays, songs and short stories, he was a true master of the art of the short story and it was his prime field of expertise and creative work.

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

He initially wrote a few of short plays, including Die Appel (written at 16), Jan Blom Dans ‘n Mazurka, Blomtyd is Bloeityd and Sjampanje 1988).

However, his most important contribution to South African theatre must be his espousal of Kabaret (the Afrikaans versions of the pre-war German, French and Dutch political cabaret) as a vehicle for resistance and protest among Afrikaans writers. He was particularly influenced by the Weimar period and the work of Bertolt Brecht and wrote quite a substantial body of theory around his notions of the cabaret - or Kabaret as he calls it.

His texts in this regard still remain some of the prime examples of the genre and many of them were developed and produced in the 1980s, often in association with Herman Pretorius of the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department - and have been seminal in establishing the genre and influencing a large number of other writers, and many of the songs have become classic Afrikaans chansons.

His cabaret output (playtexts, cabaret texts, songs and essays) include Die Lewe is 'n Grenshotel (1977), Met Permissie Gesê (lit. "Said with your permission", 1980), Papawerwyn en ander verbeeldings vir die verhoog]] (1980), Woorde wat wond: geleentheidstukke oor randkultuur (1984), Slegs vir Almal: ’n kabaret oor selfsug (lit. "Only for everyone: a cabaret about selfishness", 1986), Die Blou Uur: 50 cocktail-kwatryne (1984), Punt in die Wind (1989), Brommer in die Boord (1990), Oudisie! (1991), Dubbeldop: kabarettekste en opstelle (1994), Wie Gryp Kry 'n Handvol (1994), Van hoogmoed tot traagheid of Die Sewe Doodsondes (a mortality play, 1996), Teen Latenstyd (1997).

Besides his plays and cabarets, he was an influential critic of theatre and performance, a mentor to new writers and a judge for numerous contests and awards (inter alia for the annual Fleur du Cap Awards).

Awards, etc

He has won the Hertzog Prize for Literature in 1982 for his total prose output.

In 1999 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University of Stellenbosch.


HAUM, 1974. Stellenbosse Galery, p.11.

Litnet [2]

South African Theatre Journal Vol.8 No 2 1994 (Special issue: Cabaret, edited by Herman Pretorius)

Wikipedia [3]

Go to the ESAT Bibliography

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