Kaatje Kekkelbek, or Life Among the Hottentots

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Kaatje Kekkelbek, or Life Among the Hottentots (or Caatje Kekelbek, or Life Among the Hottentots) is a sketch in verse and prose, in the form of a "comic song", by Andrew Geddes Bain and George Rex. (Though the father George Rex, was long seen as the author, Ludwig Binge - 1969, pp3-4 - argues convincingly for the son, Andrew Rex.)

The text and performance

Generally accepted as the first piece of performed stage writing incorporating a large chunk of "kitchen-Dutch", or Afrikaans. Very popular and apparently performed (most probably in various forms) a number of times over the years.

There is also some uncertainty about the first performed Grahamstown, with both Laidler (1925) and Fletcher (1991) saying 25 October 1838, Du Toit 5 November 1839, and F.C.L. Bosman arguing that at the earliest it could have been in 1844.

Originally published as Caatje Kekelbek, or Life Among the Hottentots in Sam Sly’s Journal Space 1846, also reproduced in its entirety in Laidler (1926: pp. 41-44). Only the first stanza is reproduced (from Laidler) by Bosman (1928, Appendix X: pp. 541-543) and the Wikipedia entry on Andrew Geddes Bain[1].

The central character of "Caatje Kekelbek" (or "Kaatje Kekkelbek", as she is more commonly known today), the fiery and articulate housemaid, has become a stock figure in a number of South African works over the years, including plays by Stephen Black and Guy Butler. (Laidler for example makes the comment in his 1926 publication that "Kaatje" is well to Capetonians. See further Binge pp. 4-5 for the general influence of this song, especially on the Afrikaans literary and playwriting tradition.)




Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge. 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 389, 413, 389, 496, 506-7, 541-543

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: p.

P.W. Laidler. 1926. The Annals of the Cape Stage. Edinburgh: William Bryce: pp. 41-44

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