South Africa’s acclaimed actor John Kani to be honoured

South Africa’s acclaimed actor John Kani to be honoured

South Africa’s grand-father of theatre, international acclaimed actor, playwright and director John Kani, will be honoured this Sunday 24 November 2013 by 21 Icons South Africa, a series of portraits and short films conceived by photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn.

Steirn, the 21 Icons South Africa creator,  shot a couple of photographs of Kani at the Lab (Market Theatre) – portraits that will be published in the Sunday Times newspaper this coming Sunday.

A short film about the making of the portrait will also be screened on SABC3 at 6.57pm on the same day.

Inspired by Nelson Mandela, the 21 Icons South Africa collection features Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk, Nadine Gordimer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and the late Professor Phillip Tobias, among  others.

Kani’s plays, which include The Island and Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, became international hits in the apartheid era and remain relevant and popular until today. These plays were written in collaboration with fellow actors Winston Ntshona and Athol Fugard.

An extremely politically-minded Kani said it was his meeting with Fugard and the Serpent Players theatre group in the 1960s that made him realise that he could use his acting skills to fight apartheid — and that white people had a place in that struggle too.

Kani was once arrested by the apartheid police for his critical work and spent 23 days in prison.

The mandate of the Serpent Players was to tell the story that would motivate the people, make them see themselves as human beings, and give them the power that it is in their hands to liberate themselves, the Port-Elizabeth man said.

Art can be a weapon for change, he said.

The 21 Icons South Africa project is  sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon and Deloitte, and supported by the Department of Arts & Culture as a nation-building initiative.

Public participation is invited on Twitter, @21icons, at and

Photo: Photographer/filmmaker Adrian Steirn and John Kani discuss the actor’s portrait at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. Credit: Gary Van Wyk



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