Adam Small was born on 21 December 1936 in Wellington. He matriculated in 1953 at the St Columbas High School in Athlone on the Cape Flats. He then attended the University of Cape Town where he studied for a degree in Languages and Philosophy. In 1963 he completed an MA (cum laude) in the philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann and Friedrich Nietzsche. During the same time period he studied at the University of London and the University of Oxford.
Adam became a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Fort Hare in 1959, and in 1960 he was one of the academic founders of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) when he was appointed as the Head of the Philosophy Department. In the early 1970’s he joined the Black Consciousness Movement.
In 1973 he was pressured to resign from the UWC. This prompted a move to Johannesburg, where he became the Head of Student Body Services at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He returned to Cape Town in 1977, where he was Director of the Western Cape Foundation for Community Services until 1983. In 1984 he returned to the UWC as the Head of the Social Services Department, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.
Adam Small made his debut as a poet in 1957 with Verse van die liefde. Some of his other well known poetry volumes include Kitaar my kruis (1961) and Sê Sjibbolet (1963). His best known theatrical drama is Kanna hy kô hystoe (1965).
Did you know?
Small himself directed Kanna hy kô hystoe in 1972 for Dramsoc, the UWC’s drama society. This society later became the Cape Flats Players.
Books still in print
Klawerjas, 2013 (Tafelberg)
The Orange Earth, 2013 (Tafelberg)
Goree, 2013 (Tafelberg)
Kô lat ons sing - 'n keur uit die gedigte van Adam Small, Kwela Books (2011)
Versjoernaal anthology (“Wie’s hy” and “Die bulldozers, hulle’t gakom”), Best Books (2009)
Krismis van Map Jacobs, Tafelberg (2008)
Awards and honours
Honorary Doctorate from the University of Natal (1981)
South African Order for Meritorious Service: Gold (1993)
Afrikaans Onbeperk Award (1995)
Honorary Doctorate from the University of Port Elizabeth (1996)
Patrick Petersen Prize (2000)
Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Western Cape (2001)
Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for his life’s work and contribution to the theatre (2005)
Hertzog Prize for his drama oeuvre (2012)
1957 Verse van die liefde, Culemborg
1958 Klein simbool: prosaverse, HAUM
1961 Kitaar my kruis, HAUM
1963 Sê Sjibbolet, Perskor
1973 Oos Wes Tuis Bes Distrik Ses (photography by Chris Jansen), Human & Rousseau
1975 Black Bronze Beautiful: quatrains, AD Donker
1986 District Six (photography by Jansje Wissema), Fontein Publishing
2013 Klawerjas, Tafelberg
1961 Die eerste steen?, HAUM
1965 Kanna hy kô hystoe, Tafelberg
1978 Joanie Galant-hulle, Perskor
1983 Krismis van Map Jacobs, Tafelberg
1978 The Orange Earth (first published in 2013), Tafelberg
2013 Goree (Afrikaans translation of The Orange Earth), Tafelberg
1979 Heidesee, Perskor