Leg­endary John Kani’s fight with apartheid

African Times - - Front Page - MASHUDU SADIKE

APARTHEID is the worst time South Africa has ever had and no coun­try should ever go through that sys­tem ever. This is ac­cord­ing to leg­endary Thes­pian Dr John Kani, who him­self sur­vived 11 stab wounds and a few death threats back in the time of the Na­tional Party rule in South Africa.

Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to the African Times at the Mar­ket The­atre in New­town Jo­han­nes­burg, where he is cur­rently fea­tur­ing in an Athol Fu­gard play ti­tled the Train Driver, Kani opened up about the hor­rors of apartheid and how he was stabbed.

“We were in Cape Town per­form­ing Miss Jul­lie and there is a scene that re­quires me to kiss a white woman, which I did to the white au­di­ence dis­may, half of them walked out. Af­ter that per­for­mance the se­cu­rity po­lice would be on my case al­ways. It was dur­ing that same year that I was stabbed 11 times and left for dead,” he says with a chuckle.

Kani, who has re­ceived two hon­orary Doc­tor­ates from The Uni­ver­sity of Dur­ban Westville and The Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town re­spec­tively, sur­vived many as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts and also lost his left eye to a beat­ing from apartheid po­lice that caused him to wear a pros­thetic eye.Kani fur­ther nar­rates that af­ter ap­pear­ing in Athol Fu­gard’s Sizwe Banzi Is dead abroad, that ad­dressed the apartheid regime’s pass laws, he re­ceived a phone call that lured him from his home by a farce that his fa­ther was call­ing for him only to be sur­rounded by the po­lice and beaten to a pulp.

“Win­ston Nt­sona and I were de­tained for 90 days be­cause of per­form­ing Sizwe Banzi Is dead. I re­mem­ber once when I was per­form­ing abroad and met Thabo Mbeki, who was in ex­ile. He said to me that we should not deny to the po­lice when we got home the fact that we had met them. It was to make sure that they knew that the ANC was still alive and fight­ing,” he said with a beam­ing face.

“Apartheid was ter­ri­ble. Grow­ing up my world was my fa­ther’s four room house in New Brighton and we would go into town on Week­ends. We had a rit­ual to stop drink­ing wa­ter on Fri­day nights be­cause there were no toi­lets for black peo­ple in our city.

His love for drama had been ce­mented when he joined the Ser­pent Play­ers drama group where he met Athol Fu­gard in 1965. The pair worked to­gether in nu­mer­ous plays and their work was cru­cial in show­cas­ing the hor­rors of the apartheid sys­tem to the world.

Dr Kani’s pas­sion for act­ing came about when he was in High school where he met Wis­ton Nt­sona who won the Tony award to­gether with Kani for best ac­tors in both Sizwe Banzi is dead and the Is­land.

The Tony award is handed out in the United States of Amer­ica for out­stand­ing work in the­atre pro­duc­tions on Broad­way.

How­ever, Kani says that his fa­ther did not sup­port his pas­sion for act­ing at first and that he took him to a san­goma (tra­di­tional healer) when he re­alised that he wanted to do act­ing in­stead of continuing at his first job at Ford mo­tor com­pany, where he earned R32 a week.

“It was so funny how my fa­ther dreaded my pas­sion for act­ing. He took me to a san­goma and when we got there the san­goma told him that there were peo­ple who were jeal­ous around my fa­ther and so they wanted to get to him through me and they had be­witched me to do stupid things, re­fer­ring to act­ing,” the thes­pian says with loud laugh­ter. Kani has since gone on to star in var­i­ous stage and stage pro­duc­tions across the world as well as lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional films most re­cently fea­tur­ing in a lead­ing role in the box of­fice hit, Black Pan­ther. He is also set to star in the up­com­ing adap­ta­tion of one of Dis­ney’s most iconic films, The Lion King.Artis­tic Di­rec­tor at the

Mar­ket The­atre James Ncobo says that Kani is the cus­to­dian of the Mar­ket The­atre. “When I close my eyes and hope to be in­spired about act­ing. I can’t help but think of Bra John. The man is such an in­spi­ra­tion,” said Ncobo.DR Kani is cur­rently fea­tur­ing in a play writ­ten by Fu­gard at the Mar­ket The­atre that ends on the 4TH of June 2018

Vet­eran South African ac­tor, di­rec­tor and play­wright John Kani

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