Vlyt en Kunst

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Vlyt en Kunst (1834 to 1838; 1870-) was the name given to a private Dutch amateur theatre companies in Cape Town in the 19th century.

The company was possibly also referred to as the South African Amateur Company on a few occasions.


The company was founded and managed by J.T. van der Chys, with P.A. Ley as a marketing agent and later manager perhaps, and J.J. de Kock as secretary. C.E. Boniface now became the leading artistic presence, who wrote, translated and undoubtedly staged some works for the company.

Vlyt en Kunst is first mentioned by this name only in 1834, though the company itself claimed (in 1835) that it had been in existence for 3 years by then (i.e. had been founded in 1833), which leads Bosman (1928, p. 321) to argue that it had flowed directly out of an earlier company, Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst (floreat 1833), particularly since J.T. van der Chys had played the same management role in the earlier company. The company was active till 1838, flourishing strongly in 1834-5, then began struggling - most propably under the pressure of a number of factors, including the renewed rise Methodism and the anti-theatrical movement, the increase in puppetry and mechanical entertainements in 1837-8, and some internal issues, such as the withdrawal of Boniface and the clash of two factions within the company - one led by De Kock - see the productions that year. By the end of 1838 this internal strife had caused the break-up of the company and the death knell was apparently the sale of The African Theatre in 1839.

Bosman (1928, p. 342) mentions that the next time a version of this motto occurs is in 1870, when a company called Kunst en Vlyt apparently broke away from Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst because of internal strife. It would only last for a bit more than one year.


The company performed in Dutch, with most of the productions taking place in what was known as the Liefhebbery Toneel or the Kaapsche Liefhebbery Tooneel ( i.e. Amateur Theatre or Cape Amateur Theatre in English), though they also occasionally used the African Theatre.

Plays performed included:

1834: Het Schandmerk, of De Twee Galeiboeven (Boirie, Carmouche and Poujol), Het Dorp aan de Grenzen, of De Hollanders en de Brabanders (J. van Lennep), Robert Maxwell, of De Offerdood (Von Kotzebue), De Wonderdoctor (Molière), Clasius, of Het Proces om een Komedielootjie (Boniface), De Vaandrig (Schroder), Valmont de Saint Priest, of De Schipbreukeling (Van Haemstede), Castor and Pollux (Boniface) Nog Net Zoo (Boniface), De Burger Edelman (Molière), Pygmalion (Rousseau),

1835: Valmont de Saint Priest, of De Schipbreukeling (Van Haemstede), De Helleveeg (Loosjes), Pizarro (Von Kotzebue), Jérome Pointu (Beaunoir), Warren's Blacking, 30 Strand (Lemon), Aballino, De Groote Bandiet (Zschokke), Monsieur Tonson, of De Geplaagde Barbier (Moncrieffe), and possibly Montoni, of Het Kasteel van Udolpho (Duval), , though no record of an actual performance is found for this year.

1836: Othello, of De Jaloersche Zwart (Shakespeare), De Logen om Best Wil (Garrick), Montoni, of Het Kasteel van Udolpho (Duval), Nognetzoo (Boniface), and Het Fancy Bal!!! (Anon). Possibly also Men Doet Wat Men Kan, Niet Wat Men Wil (Dorvigny), though no record of an actual performance is found for this year.

1837: The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare), High Life Below Stairs (Townley), Othello, of De Moor van Venetien (Shakespeare) and Dirk Menschenschrik (Holberg). Possibly also Flodoardo van Overschie, of De Kleine Bandiet and De Oude Rot, though Bosman (1928: p. 338) is unsure whether the performances were actually by Vlyt en Kunst or perhaps another company, since it is credited to the "South African Amateur Company".

1838: In this year it appears that performances were by some members of the society working on their own, rather than by the company as a unit - at times under the leadership of J.J. de Kock, at other not. Among the works that Bosman (1928: pp. 339-342) mentions are Montoni (Duval), De Jood en de Christen, of de Gevolge der Lichtzinnigheid (Shakespeare), Jantje Puk, of Den Doctor tegen Wil en Dank (Molière), Het Veemgerigt, of Wreedheid en Grootmoedigheid (Ziegler), De Dwarsdryfster (Rivière and Dufresny),

[TH, JH]


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 178, 233, 272-4, 320-342, 352, 359, 363, 367-8, 373-4, 382-6, 444.

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II: 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 441-4,

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

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