Hendrik Andries Hanekom
1896 - 1952

Names: Hanekom, Hendrik Andries
Date of Birth: *17 June 1896
Date of Death: 14 January 1952                 
Place of Birth:

Beaufort West, Cape  Town

Place of Death: Strand
Gender: Male
In Summary :

Theatrical pioneer and actor (Afrikaans).

Hendrik Andries Hanekom

Early Life:

Hendrik Hanekom was born on *17 June 1896. He was the son of Hendrik Hanekom. Hanekom was educated at Beaufort West where he matriculated. He never received theatrical training in his youth.


Hanekom was first employed as a municipal official in the town of his birth and was later promoted to assistant town clerk. He was also interested in theatre and in 1912 made his debut as an amateur actor in C.J. Langenhoven’s “Die wereld die draai” with the part of Meester van Helderbos. Hanekom married Matilda de Beer on 5 August 1918. In 1919 he was appointed town clerk of De Aar and in 1922 at Lydenburg. Inspired by Leonard Rayne a renowned actor, he resigned his office and established a professional theatrical company in Pretoria. Neither Hanekom nor his wife had received theatrical training but with dedicated study and later guidance of the great Paul de Groot, they developed acting and stage management skills until they became leading personalities in stage.

Their daughter Tilana was only three years old when her father abandoned his post as town clerk for the stage. In July 1926, Hanekom was invited by Paul de Groot to join his theatrical group and in partnership they laid the foundation upon which many other professional theatrical companies where built.

Their first presentation was “Huistoe” (Suderman’s Hermat) which was followed by three productions.  In March 1928, Hanekom and de Groot parted company and it was the first time an Afrikaans professional group split. 

Hanekom continued with his own company until 1932 when the depression of the thirties compelled him to close the company. He later started a drama school in Bloemfontein. During the two years which the institution existed, he produced fifteen plays including two by D.F. Malherbe, these were some of the best plays of his career. From the end of 1934 to 1936 he went on a countrywide tour, approximately four hundred performances were held and attended by more than a quarter of a million people.

At the beginning of 1937 Hanekom’s company joined Huguenet’s for the production of Hendrik Brand’s “Die Skerpioen” which was adapted for the stage as “Tamboere in die Nag.

  Sources for this biography

Potgieter, D.J.et al. (eds). (1971). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, NASOU: Cape Town.v. 5, p. 422. 

Beyers, C.J. et al.(eds).(1977).Dictionary of South African Biography, Butterworth:Durban.v3,p.372.


Hendrik Hanekom with his wife Matilde and daughter Tilana in 1951, shortly before his death

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At the end of that year, Hanekom went overseas to study drama. On his return, many productions followed, the most successful being repeat performances of “Die seeman” and “Oom Paul.”

In 1947, his company split into three groups, one went with Matilda, one with Tilana and her husband and the other with Hanekom himself to the Transvaal. In 1948, the three groups disbanded and Hanekom and Matilda joined the newly established National Theatre Organisation in which they performed.

Later Life:

Throughout his career, Hanekom promoted folk theatre and met a real need among Afrikaans theatergoers. His productions also helped to create theatre awareness in the rural areas. Some of the actors who made their debut under his guidance include James Norval, Siegfried Mynhardt and Berdine Grunewald.

In 1945, the Medal of Honour for Drama was awarded jointly to Hanekom and Matilda by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, in recognition of their pioneering work in the field of the Afrikaans professional theatre. A collection of Hanekom’s documents is preserved in the National Afrikaans Literature Museum. Henekom died on *14 January 1952 in the Strand, Western Cape.      


*Source 1 gives 17 July 1895 as his date of birth.
*Source 2 gives 17 June 1896 as his date of birth.
*Source 1 gives 12 January 1952 as his date of death.
*Source 2 gives 14 January 1952 as his date of death.

Last updated May 2007

- South African History Online