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European as a general term

Used as a noun it is a broad and general term that techically refers to all people born and living in Europe (excepting Britain in some cases). This in contrast to a Non-European person, indigenous to (i.e. born and living in) any other place on earth.

Use of the term in South Africa

In South Africa the term became a racist classification under the British, a classification which later became legalised terms under Apartheid-legislation. "European" was thus used to refer to all white people ("Whites" as they were later referred to), in contrast to all "Non-European" people (or "Non-Whites") - who in turn were classified by race and pigmentation based categories under Apartheid according to the colour of their skins and heritage i.e. known successively as Natives, Kaffirs, Bantus and ultimately Blacks; Coloureds and Indians or Asians)(See further Apartheid)

European as adjective

As an adjective(as in “European drama”, “European conventions”etc) it would refer to the various products of the Europeans. The term Eurocentric is derived from this.


As a general term

A term coined in the post-colonial period to refer to items and ideas with hegemonic power that derive from colonial Europe (and this includes Britain, often also the USA). Mostly used prejoratively (in contrast to African or Afrocentric)on the African continent, and specifically also in South Africa.

In the arts

In the arts this has been used (often in contrast to Afrocentric), to argue for the recognition of indigenous art forms, aesthetic principles, and artists, and to reject the hegemony of imported, imposed and ultimately even seductive European models in the arts. Part of a disturbing, even acrimonious, “either/or” debate about arts and arts funding (as well as SABC air-time, festival exposure and so on) which raged in the 1990’s, as part of the transformation process in South Africa. By the end of the century a more accomodating and inclusive “and/and” position had been reached (in theory at least).

European drama and theatre

The idea of "European drama" and "European theatre"

To be written

European theatre in Southern Africa before 1652

In 1608 Captain Keeling reported "Richard II" performed aboard "The Dragon" off the Cape and in 1610 a Portuguese crew performed a "very pretty comedy" while passing the Cape. "Crossing the Line Ceremonies" were celebrated when crossing the equator, with rough dramas performed by passengers and crew. According to Bosman, this was also curtrent among Dutch sailors, though he believes little or none of this reached the Cape outpost before 1713. The first known Western-style performance actually staged on South African soil took place in 1635 when a Portuguese ship, the Nossa Senhora de Belem, was wrecked off the Natal coast north of the Umzimvubu river. Enough was salvaged to build two smaller ships. During this time a shipyard, church and huts were also built the crew held a bullfight in a specially-built enclosure, performed a comedy, several short sketches and other entertainments on the Festival of St Francis Xavier. This took place of South Africa. See also the terms: Naval theatre, Amateur theatre, Shipboard entertainments. (See Van de Kock (19**), By strength of heart.; ** Laidler (19**) ***; F.C.L. Bosman Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika (Deel 1, 1928) pp14-16; Jill Fletcher (1994), The Story of the African Theatre.) [JF + TH]

European theatre in Southern Africa after 1652

The history of European (and later American) theatre in the country is extremely well documented, also in this database. See South African Theatre/Overview

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