Living legend given his flowers  

The entertainment industry greats paid tribute to one of South Africans great actors, John Kani at his birthday celebration. 

Award winning actor, director, playwright, and Wits honorary doctorate receiver John Kani celebrated his 80th birthday in a packed theatre. The celebration took place in his namesake, the John Kani theatre, in the Market Theatre laboratory on August 30.  

The event was opened with a performance by the South African jazz musician Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, followed by an address by Atandwa Kani, his son and an actor in his own right. “We all here to celebrate this big man’s birthday on behalf of the family, I just want to say tata, happy birthday Mlotshane,” he said.  

Atandwa Kani performing The Island. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

The Van Toeka Af living legends recognition series is an initiative by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s which recognises living legends and the work they have done. Dr Kani’s 60 year career in the dramatic arts played out on stage.  

The celebration included different snippets of theatre work that Kani had worked on and won accolades for, among these performances was the infamous Sizwe Banzi is Dead, performed by Atandwa and Nathienal Ramabulana on the night. The play co-written by Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and Kani, explored the themes of identity, self-worth, racism, and suppression.  

This is the play that won the Tony Award for the best play in 1975. It premiered in October of 1972 and ran 52 times in New York, winning the award three years later.  

Kodwa spoke fondly about Kani and the work he has done for art and how he has used art to inspire change through his work during the apartheid and post-apartheid era. “He is the living testament to the power of art, to inspire change, to transcend boundaries and to foster unity,” he said. 

Another outstanding theatre performance of Shakespeare’s Othello was performed by Atandwa, Kate Liquorish and Michael Richard. In 1987, Kani’s role as Othello, in particular the infamous kiss shared with Desdemona (a white woman) in the play, faced backlash. The kiss came just two years after laws prohibiting interracial marriages and sex were repealed by the Apartheid government. But segregation was still so ingrained, that many audience members walked out during performances reported the Chicago Tribune at the time.

Atandwa Kani and Kate Liquorish performing Othello. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Kani wrapped up the evening with a performance of a play he wrote called “Nothing but the Truth” which looked at the relationship complexities between the black people that stayed in South Africa and the ones that went into exile.  

After his performance he made a speech on the importance of sustainability in the arts. “We have to industrialise the arts, it cannot be a side job because we don’t want to do a BSc [Bachelor of Sciences], it has to be a business, an industry that I can tell my children yes because you’re going to survive, make money and be rich.”  

FEATURED IMAGE: John Kani sits down to have an interview with Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula


Too many feelings and emotions for one man

EMOTIONAL PERFORMER:     Oupa Sibeko takes on his emotional performance for his new play 'Fear and Longing'.  Photo: Palesa Tshandu

EMOTIONAL PERFORMER: Oupa Sibeko takes on his emotional performance for his new play ‘Fear and Longing’. Photo: Palesa Tshandu

Universal feelings of anxiety and desire are confronted in the latest offering by performing and visual arts student Oupa Sibeko.  The one-man contemporary dance piece called ‘Fear and Longing’ attempts to challenge all human emotion.

The 21-year-old student premiered his show at the Roodeport Youth Arts Festival last weekend as part of his physical theatre course based on the “containment of the body”.

“The fear is portrayed in the fragmentation of the self and the longing is the escape”, said Sibeko to describe the visual dance piece whose text relies on audience’s interpretation of the play.

According to Sibeko, his character in the piece has no definite role but is an extension of humanity, relying on human experiences and emotion to tell the story.

“As humans we carry things in outer bodies that we grew up with, that affect how we move and how we interact with people which is body, archive and memory”, said Sibeko who was able to contextualize how the play is able to relate to the audience. .

The play also attempts to reject societies understanding of masculinity by providing a platform to express human vulnerabilities, says Sibeko.

“I had to pay attention to how society defines masculinity and how I define masculinity and the other side of masculinity”, said Sibeko who suggests that the play is inherently vulnerable and open to masculinity.

The dance piece is a combination of a contemporary dance, which includes a traditional Japanese dance style called butoh which “is connected to the soul and the spirit…tracing the human essence,” said Sibeko.

The piece will be showing at the Nunnery at Wits University from the 14th to the 15th of May.



Scholarship opportunity for perfoming arts

Two scholarships are being offered by the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) for individuals who want to study the arts.

The scholarships are being offered to youth wanting to study any undergraduate course in the performing arts sector. “We saw there was a real need for this type of scholarship,” says Nomalanga Nkosi, programmes manger at ACT.

“ACT has worked in the arts industry for many years, so we’ve identified a need for professionals in this sector. There are many scholarships for science and maths-related courses, and there aren’t too many for arts courses specifically.”

Those who want to apply for the scholarship need to register and audition to demonstrate their abilities in acting, singing and dancing. Nkosi says the audition process is a learning opportunity.

“You get to experience first-hand what it’s like to be in the industry. You start to think about being a performer.”

Steven Norman, who won a scholarship in 2009, says he did a singing, acting and dancing piece, which he choreographed with the help of a friend.

He says the scholarship has motivated him. “I have the opportunity, and I don’t have to worry about financial aid. It’s helped me realise the passion I have for theatre, so it’s been a good influence.”

The second winner, Zola Myeza, a student at the University of Cape Town, has similar views and says the scholarship has helped her plan her future.

“I know what I want in life. I would want to do my honours, and if I could, I would start my own agency and recruit performers.”

The scholarship is being offered to non-professionals between the ages of 18 and 25. Ian Gertenbach, a 1st year student, says the scholarship is a “marvellous” idea. “Scholarships inspire people to work harder and better at what they do.”

The drama student says he would have applied for the scholarship, adding that arts degrees are “pricey, as they’re specialised degrees”.

The closing date for registrations is May 31 and it is open to individuals who are not registered for an undergraduate degree at the time. For more information visit the ACT website at