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A term used for a solo performance of a musical nature or, at one period, for a performance of a verbal nature, an oral recital.

A popular pastime in England and the colonies, including South Africa in the 19th century and early 20th century. In theatrical terms this was applied particularly to a solo (or group) programme of verse, prose and/or dramatic sketches as part of an evening of theatre, various public occasions, solo performances, etc. Often done by a trained Vocal artist or Elocutionist

Gradually declined in popularity in English, though it retained its popularity into the 20th century, and even regained important stature in the Afrikaans tradition during the evolution of the Afrikaans festival circuit in in the late 20th and even early 21st centuries.

The English tradition of literary recitals

See Hill's Literary Entertainments, the Amicable Club and the work of T.P. Hill

Also the visits by Mark Twain,

The Afrikaans recital tradition

The Afrikaans tradition is central to the history of Afrikaans theatre and performance and the development of the Afrikaans cultural identity.


The oral presentation/performance of a narrative or piece of verse.


A "(vocal) recital" or programme of verse, prose and dramatic pieces, presented by a voordragkunstenaar or elocutionist. Very much part of the tradition of performance of the 19th century (both English and Dutch), through its theatrical evenings and "konserte" offered by debating societies, rederykerskamers, cultural societies, and the like, it became a central part of the Afrikaans performance tradition in the 20th century, storngly influenced by the elocutionary practice of Dutch and Flemish teachers and touring artists (such as Anna Klaasen, E. Lauwerijs) and their South African pupils (Stephanie Fauré, Danie Smal). The trained voordragkunstenaar became a sine qua non of most public events, with individuals like Danie Smal, Anna Neethling-Pohl and Hannes Horne performing patriotic and other appropriate material (often poetry by Afrikaans writers) as part of the ceremony. A tradition of course strongly supported and promoted by schools and their participation in the various Eistedfodau (or Kunswedstryde = lit. "Arts Competitions"). While it declined markedly as a separate art form during the 1960-1990 period, it has revived strongly with the development of the arts festival movement, with verse-and-prose programmes ("Woordprogramme") becoming a central feature of the Afrikaans festivals. One festival indeed (the annual two-day Afrikaanse Woordfees in Stellenbosch) has the art of the word (elocution, song, storytelling, debate) as a raison d'etre. The English tradition is discussion under Elocution above. See also various indigenous African storytelling and oral performance traditions (iNtsomi, **, ***)


Literally " Recital Artist", usually a vocal artist or elocutionist. Dictionaries usually translate this Afrikaans term with the somewhat old-fashioned English term Elocutionist, though the Afrikaans performance tradition is much more wide-ranging one, deriving from Dutch and Flemish practice, and referring to individuals who offered solo (or group) programmes of verse, prose and/or dramatic sketches as part of evenings of theatre, various public occasions, solo performances, etc. The term Vocal artist is an alternative term also used, one which contains something of the creative/performance quality of the work, though the English term it is more often used of people working in radio, and doing TV and film dubbing.

Some of the most notable Afrikaans voordragkunstenaars over the years have been Stephanie Fauré, Danie Smal, Anna Neethling-Pohl, Hannes Horne, **

Performance poetry

An ofshoot in a way of this notion, combined with the long oral tradition of oral narrative and poetry, is the emergence of the highly politicised oral performances of the Cultural struggle period, including the songs of rap artists and singers. See Political theatre and Oral performance.

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