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1985 – ATKV Prose Award for Kringe in ‘n bos (Circles in a Forest)
1986 – Medal of Honour, Students’ Council, University of Pretoria, for her significant contribution to the people of South Africa
1986 – ATKV Prose Award for Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child)
1986 – The Southern African Institute of Forestry Award. Dalene was the first recipient of this award outside the Department of Forestry. She was also the first woman to receive this award. She received this award for Kringe in ‘n bos (Circles in a Forest) and Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child), and also for her work on the Knysna Forest, the early woodcutters’ community and the development of the timber industry in Knysna. She introduced her readers to the community of impoverished and often backward woodcutters who lived in the Forest back then.
She also stressed how important it was to conserve the indigenous fauna and flora. Her books are based on a comprehensive study of the Knysna Forest and the timber industry in the area. The Institute also commended the accuracy of the specialised, technical and historic information in her books. This Forestry Award is the highest award currently available to acknowledge significant contributions to Forestry in South Africa.
1988 – Honorary Citizenship of Riversdale, her home town
1988 – ATKV Prose Award for Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest)
1993 – Stab Award (Stiftung für Abendländische Besinnung), Zürich, Switzerland. The annual Stab Award acknowledges significant contributions to the development of Western Culture. Dalene Matthee received this award in Switzerland from the late Dr Hans Jenny for her “warm and powerful novels which give expression to her involvement with this endangered environment and to each person’s fundamental right to a cultural identity” and also for her “vital literary work and her keen interest in nature conservation” (Beeld, 27 August 1992).
She was the first South African recipient of this award.
1994 – Honorary Citizenship of Hartenbos, where she lived for 25 years
1996 – ATKV Prose Award for Susters van Eva
2004 – The Southern African Institute of Forestry Award, acknowledging her exceptional service to forestry in Southern Africa
2007 – SA Literary Award (posthumously) – Department of Arts and Culture
2016 – Lifetime Achievement Award – Sanlam Knysna Awards
“In recognition of the outstanding contribution she made to Knysna’s community and the understanding of its history and people that has enriched South Africa’s literary heritage.”
Highlights and achievements
Former president Nelson Mandela read her books while he was imprisoned on Robben Island. “He read the books of various Afrikaans authors while in jail and he particularly liked the books of Dalene Matthee. He also saw the film Circles in a Forest while in prison.” Mandela also phoned her personally to congratulate her on Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella, Daughter of Eva), a historical novel which also touches on the history of Robben Island.
In Die Burger of 26 September 2005:
Author Elsa Joubert said Dalene succeeded in getting people who never read Afrikaans to actually read Afrikaans.
Literary critic Wium van Zyl said she could be compared to the well-known Afrikaans author Langenhoven. “Like Langenhoven, she offered something to intellectual readers as well as ordinary readers. She exposed readers to various issues. She was an ecologist and a mild feminist who looked at the poor with attention and respect.”
Author André P Brink said she was one of “the really significant voices in Afrikaans literature”.
Her books have been translated into 14 different languages.
Kringe in ‘n bos (Circles in a Forest) and Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child) have been prescribed books in schools for over 20 years.
In 1998 she received a grant from the National Arts Council to partly finance her research for Pieternella van die Kaap (Pieternella, Daughter of Eva).
She is the only Afrikaans author of whom over one million Afrikaans books have been sold by Tafelberg Publishers in South Africa. nb.book.co.za, June 19th, 2008
A powerful creation of time and place with dark threads of destiny and oppression and its roots in the almost Biblical soil of a storyteller's art. - Christopher Wordsworth