Melt J. Brink

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Melt J. Brink (1842-1925) was a Dutch-Afrikaans poet, playwright, actor and director.

Also known as M.J. Brink or Melt Brink.


Biography

Born in Cape Town on 16 May 1842, he had little education and a chequered youth, before becoming a cartographer in the surveyor general’s office by profession. He was also an avid Freemason and utilized those connections to promote culture in the Cape.

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

He began writing poetry from his fourteenth year and became an enormously prolific Dutch and Afrikaans playwright, whose 47 dialogues and one-act light farces could be considered the true beginning of local writing in Afrikaans, even though he wrote much of it in what was known as Kaapse Afrikaans ("Cape Dutch"), or Brink Afrikaans, and he himself never really aligned himself with the ideals of the Afrikaans language struggle per se.

He became a leading figure in Cape Dutch amateur theatre, as writer, popular and versatile actor and secretary of the influential group Aurora (1866-1887), for which he also wrote 14 farces in Dutch.

His first original Dutch play for them was Het Origineele Testament ("The original testament") and was presented by Aurora on 29 April 1865 in the Germania Hall, Cape Town. [But according to Ludwig Binge, they were only FORMED in 1866! Binge says it was performed 8 July 1869**]

Bosman (1980: p. 459) lists the other Dutch plays from this period as: Het Spook, of De Bekering van Docter Peperhoofd (1869); Naar de Diamantvelden (1870 - published in Afrikaans in 1921 as Die Diamantkoors, of Einde Goed, Alles Goed); De Weddenschap (1871); De Tovenaar, of De Geest in de Kast (1871); Een Reis met Hindernissen, of De Speler Bekeerd (1871); De Drie Verliefde Schoolmeesters, of Wie zal de Bruid Hebben? (1872); Een Loterij (1872); De Onaangename Huishoudster (1873); Trouw Beloond, of De Zegepraal de Onschuld (1873); Twee Dooven (1874); De Misdadigers, of Loon naar Werken (1874); and De Tijdgeest (1875).

His last (Dutch?) play for them was De Slagers van Ghent (or also known as De Offers der Vrijheid of De Slagers van Ghent), performed on 17 July 1877.

When he begins to write again, at the turn of the century, he had discarded Dutch in favour of Afrikaans, or at least to his form of Dutch-Afrikaans - what has been referred to as "Brink Afrikaans" by some writers. The 47 playlets (including "samensprake" or "dialogues") which appeared in print between Hoe Oom Jacob Hoogvliegt Gefopt Werd ("How Uncle Jacob Highflier was tricked",1904) and Die Diamandkoors, of Einde Goed, Alles Goed ("Diamond Fever, or All's Well that Ends Well", 1921) had an immense influence on popular Afrikaans theatre ("volkstoneel") and were often reprinted and performed by various companies.

However the plays were not rated highly by more literary minded cultural activists, such as Gustav Preller and J.H. Malan, or serious performers, such as Hendrik Hanekom or Pieter Pohl of Graaff-Reinet. It is notable that 14 of those plays appeared in the period 1904 and 1908, when the Afrikaans culture was in dire need of resurrection.

Among his most popular pieces were Die Selfsugtige Onderwyseres ("The Selfish Teacher"), Berouw Kom meestal te Laat ("Regret Usually Comes too Late"), Die Kwaaie Huishoudster ("The Difficult Housekeeper", 1905) , Maljan onder die Hoenders ("Mad Jan among the chickens", 1906), Die Slimme Boertjie, of de Vergiftigde Wors ("The Smart Little Farmer, or the poisoned sausage", 1916), Bij die Tande-dokter ("At the Dentist", 1905), O, De Muise of Die Stemreg vir Vrouwe ("Oh the mice or the vote for women", 1908) and Die Egskeiding ("The Divorce", 1905).

Adaptations of his work

Three one act plays by Brink were utilized by Robert Mohr in 1967 to compile and produce the hugely popular full-length farce Ons Hou Konsert ("We have a concert/a show") for CAPAB. This was followed by Ons Hou Konsert II for CAPAB in 1983, using three other plays by Brink.

In 1999 a new shortened text of Ons Hou Konsert, adapted and reworked by Peter Snyders and Johan Esterhuizen, was performed in die Nico Arena by CAPAB as a tribute to Robert Mohr.

Awards, etc

In 1873 Brink was honoured for his contribution to Dutch Culture by the Dutch Government.

[TH, JH]

Sources

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

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 9, 44, 57, 442, 511

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

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

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