Bonisile John Kani
30 August 1943
New Brighton, Eastern Cape, South Africa
|Honours||Order of Ikhamanga in Silver|
Bonisile John Kani (born 30 August 1943) is a South African actor, author, director and playwright. He is known for portraying T'Chaka in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Black Panther (2018), Rafiki in the 2019 remake of The Lion King and Colonel Ulenga in the Netflix film Murder Mystery (2019).
Early and personal life
Kani was born on 30 August 1943 in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth In the Eastern Cape province. In 1975, after appearing in Athol Fugard's anti-apartheid play Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, which he also co-wrote, in the United States, Kani returned to South Africa. There, he received a phone call saying that his father wanted to see him. On his way there, he was surrounded by police who beat him and left him for dead. His left eye was lost as a result of the incident and he now wears a prosthesis which is technically a glass eye.
Kani joined The Serpent Players (a group of actors whose first performance was in the former snake pit of the zoo, hence the name) in Port Elizabeth in 1965 and helped to create many plays that went unpublished but were performed to a resounding reception.
These were followed by the more famous Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island, co-written with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona, in the early 1970s. Kani also received an Olivier Award nomination for his role in My Children! My Africa!
Kani's work has been widely performed around the world, including New York, where he and Winston Ntshona won a Tony Award in 1975 for Sizwe Banzi Is Dead (which ran for 159 performances) and The Island.' These two plays were presented in repertory at the Edison Theatre for a total of 52 performances.
In 1987 Kani played Othello in a performance of William Shakespeare's play of the same name in South Africa, which was still under apartheid. "At least I'll be able to kiss Desdemona without leaving a smudge," he said then.
Nothing but the Truth (2002) was his debut as sole playwright and was first performed in the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. This play takes place in post-apartheid South Africa and does not concern the conflicts between whites and blacks, but the rift between blacks who stayed in South Africa to fight apartheid, and those who left only to return when the hated regime folded. It won the 2003 Fleur du Cap Awards for the best actor and best new South African play. In the same year, he was also awarded a special Obie Award for his extraordinary contribution to theatre in the United States.
Kani is executive trustee of the John Kani Theatre Foundation, founder and director of the John Kani Theatre Laboratory and chairman of the National Arts Council of SA. He starred as T'Chaka in the Marvel Studios blockbusters Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Black Panther (2018). The fact that Kani was a Xhosa native speaker led Chadwick Boseman, who played his onscreen son T'Challa, to make that Wakanda's language, and to learn whole scenes in Xhosa, although he had never studied the language before.
Kani's play, Kunene and the King, a co-production for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Fugard Theatre, played in the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2019 before transferring back to Cape Town. He starred alongside fellow South African Antony Sher.
Other recognition and awards
On 20 February 2010, Kani received a SAFTA Life Time award. He has also received the Avanti Hall of Fame Award from the South African film, television, and advertising industries, an M-Net Plum award and a Clio award in New York. Other awards include the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation Award for the year 2000 and the Olive Schreiner Prize for 2005. He was voted 51st in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.
In 2016 Kani received the national honour of the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, for his "Excellent contributions to theatre and, through this, the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa".
- Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1972) (co-authored with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona)
- The Island (1973) (co-authored with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona)
- Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (co-authored with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona)
- My Children My Africa! (actor)
- Nothing But the Truth (2002) (sole playwright)
- The Tempest (2008) (actor in the role of Caliban, at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town; Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon; and tour of Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham, Sheffield)
- Missing (2014) (actor and sole playwright)
- Kunene and the King (2019) (actor and playwright)
Film and television
|1974||BBC2 Playhouse||Styles / Buntu||Episode: "Sizwe Bansi Is Dead"|
|2nd House||Episode: "Athol Fugard"|
|1978||Play for Today||George O'Brien||Episode: "Victims of Apartheid"|
|1985||Master Harold...and the Boys||Willie||TV Movie|
|1986||Miss Julie||John||TV Movie|
|1997||Kap der Rache||Inspektor Khumalo||German TV Movie|
|2006||Hillside||Dr. Vincent Maloka||1 episode|
|2008||The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency||Daddy Bapetsi||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Silent Witness||Dr. Phiri||2 episode|
|2012||iNkaba||Mkhuseli Mthetho||1 episode|
|2015||Wallander||Max Khulu||Episode: "The White Lioness"|
|2021||What If...?||T'Chaka (voice)||2 episodes|
|1978||The Wild Geese||Sgt. Jesse Link|
|1980||Marigolds in August||Melton|
|1987||Saturday Night at the Palace||September|
|An African Dream||Khatana|
|A Dry White Season||Julius|
|The Native Who Caused All the Trouble||Tselilo Mseme|
|1995||Soweto Green: This Is a 'Tree' Story||Dr. Curtis Tshabalala|
|1996||The Ghost and the Darkness||Samuel|
|1997||Kini and Adams||Ben|
|1998||The Tichborne Claimant||Bogle|
|2001||Final Solution||Rev. Peter Lekota|
|2007||The Bird Can’t Fly||Stone|
|2008||Nothing but the Truth||Sipho||Also director and writer|
|2010||White Lion||Old Gisani|
|How to Steal 2 Million||Julius Twala Snr.||South African Movie|
|2016||The Suit||Mr. Maphikela||Short film|
|Captain America: Civil War||T'Chaka|
|2019||Murder Mystery||Colonel Ulenga|
|The Lion King||Rafiki (voice)|
|2021||Seal Team||Brick (voice)|
|2023||Murder Mystery 2||Colonel Ulenga||Post-production|
|2024||Mufasa: The Lion King||Rafiki (voice)||Post-production|
- Nothing But the Truth (2002)
- "Bonisile John Kani (1943–)". The Presidency. 30 August 1943. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
Britt, Donna (26 September 1989). "Apartheid Through An Angry Lens". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
Kani lost his eye when he returned to South Africa after appearing in Athol Fugard's anti-apartheid play, "Sizwe Banzi Is Dead," here and in New York. The actor was lured from his home by a telephone caller who said Kani was wanted at his father's home. On the way there, Kani says he was surrounded by police, who beat him and left him for dead.
- "John Kani on Black Panther premiere: 'I knew we would introduce a different African'". TimesLIVE.
- "The big interview– DR John Kani". SA fm. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- Hetrick, Adam. "Tony Award-Winning South African Actor Winston Ntshona Dies at 76". Playbill. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "[From our archives] 20 bizarre apartheid moments | Opinion | Analysis | M&G". Mg.co.za. 26 April 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- "Nothing But the Truth". Wits University Press. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Bonisile John Kani". South African History Online. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- Cornwell, Gareth; Klopper, Dirk; MacKenzie, Craig (2010). The Columbia Guide to South African Literature in English Since 1945. USA: Columbia University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0231130462.
- Gonzalez, Umberto; Verhoeven, Beatrice (7 August 2017). "'Lion King' Rafiki Casting: John Kani, 'Civil War' Star, to Play Wise Baboon (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
- "About the play | Kunene and the King | Royal Shakespeare Company". rsc.org.uk.
- "All the 2010 SAFTAs winners". Bizcommunity. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "In Conversation with Dr John Kani, Author, Actor, Director, Playwright". Gordan Institute of Business Science University of Pretoria. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- "Honorary doctorates for June graduation". Electronic Monday Paper. University of Cape Town. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 7 August 2006.[dead link] Vol 25 No 14
- "NMMU to honour John Kani". Port Elizabeth Herald. 10 April 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- "The Main Theatre is renamed to honour Dr. John Kani". Markettheatre.co.za. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- Jordaan, Nomahlubi. "Wits confers honorary doctorates on John Kani and Dr Isidor Segal". The Times. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
- Galuppo, Mia (24 January 2022). "Jodie Turner-Smith, Mark Strong Join Netflix's 'Murder Mystery 2'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 February 2022.