He was born in Bonnievale on 16 September 1939 and matriculated in Wellington in the Cape Province of South Africa.
He also holds French citizenship. Recognized as one of the foremost Afrikaans poets of his time, and (in Europe at least) as a significant painter and graphic artist. He matriculated at the Hoërskool Hugenoot in Wellington in 1957 and studied fine arts at the University of Cape Town. He became a committed opponent of apartheid and left South Africa in 1960, settling in Paris in 1962 with his Viëtnamese wife Yolande Ngo Thi Hoang Lien. From his first collection of poetry (Die Ysterkoei moet Sweet – “The Iron Cow must Sweat” – 1965) he has in many ways dominated Afrikaans poetry, winning numerous awards over the years. In 19** he went to Paris, where he met and married Yolande, a Vietnamese woman, and ended up working in Paris for 13 years in voluntary exile, because the country would not accept his wife under the apartheid race laws. Arrested and convicted on conspiracy charges in 1975 when returning to South Africa under a false name, and imprisoned for 9 years, of which he served 7. Returned to the country in 199* to head a Creative Writing Workshop??** at the University of Natal (Durban), and - after writing prose works on his prison experiences, he turned his hand to playwriting.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
Besides a youth work (****) his first major work, Boklied (“Goat Song”), directed by Marthinus Basson, premiéred at the 1998 Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees to great controversy and acclaim. This was followed by The Life and Times of Johnny Cockroach (1999) and Die Toneelstuk (2001), the latter to controversy once more and claimed - by director Marthinus Basson - to be a seminal work in South African theatre.
De Beer, 1995;
Judith Lütge Coullie and Johan U. Jacobs (Eds). 2004. A.k.a. Breyten Breytenbach: Critical Approaches to His Writings and Paintings. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
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