Van Riebeeck Festival

Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Van Riebeeck Festival was a celebration of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape of Good Hope on 6 April 1652.

The Festival

Named after the nominal "founder" of South Africa, the festival celebrated the tricentenary of the founding of the Dutch East India Company's refreshment stop by Van Riebeeck in 1652.

The event included the Van Riebeeck Festival of Music and Drama, which extended from 21 February to 6 April 1952. The Festival of Art opened on 20 February and the Drama Festival started with 13 plays in that week. The official opening of the Music Festival was scheduled for Tuesday 4 March. Approximately 53,000 people attended the 26 concerts, four opera and five ballet performances during the Van Riebeeck Festival.

Resistance to the festival came from both English liberal politicians as well as the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) and the ANC.

The Pageant

Besides a variety of theatre presentations by the National Theatre Organisation (NTO), a mass historic pageant and re-enactment of Van Riebeeck’s landing was Organised in Cape Town and directed for the ‘’Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisations’’ (the FAK = Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge) by pageant mistress Anna Neethling-Pohl, with a text by popular playwright Gerhard Beukes (based on Gustav Preller’s history) and with the playwright and journalist W.A. de Klerk as public relations officer. The role of Jan van Riebeeck was played by André Huguenet. The pageant basically focussed on the event as the beginnings of Afrikaner nationhood, seeing it as a history of the triumph of civilization over darkness.


South African premières during the Festival were John Joubert’s ballet, Legend of Princess Vlei, based on the well-known Cape legend, choreographed by Dulcie Howes and Albert Coates’s opera Tafelberg se Kleed.

NTO productions during the festival included Die Jaar van die Vuuros (“Year of the Fire Ox”) by W.A. de Klerk and The Dam by Guy Butler.


Binge, 1969,

Die Burger, Van Riebeeck-fees Uitgawe ("Van Riebeeck Festival Issue"), Vol XXXVI, No 1563: 7 March, 1952.

Neethling-Pohl, 19**;

Stead, 1985,

Official Programme of the Van Riebeeck Festival, 1952;

Rassool and Witz, 1993;

Kruger, 1999, pp.79-80.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Return to

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to South_African_Films

Return to South African Stage Plays

Return to South African Radio Plays and Serials

Return to South African Television Plays and Series

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page