- John Kani gained mainstream popularity after acting as King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther
- John is an internationally recognised playwright and won two Tony Awards when South Africa was in the grip of apartheid
- In 1985, Kani was brutally attacked and left for dead after kissing a white actress in a play
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When the character of King T’Chaka made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, followed by Black Panther, he brought a calm yet powerful presence to the screen. For many, especially fans of superhero movies, John Kani was a lesser-known actor. But for South Africans, we were proud to see our very own joining the colossal Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kani is Mzansi's very own real-life superhero. His story is inspiring and shows that even against all odds, you can make it big and live your dreams.
Opportunities, talent and awards
Bonisile John Kani was born in 1942 in a township known as New Brighton in the Eastern Cape. He grew up when South Africa was in the grip of apartheid, and being black meant you didn’t have a promising future. But even against this backdrop, Kani would become an award-winning playwright, director, actor and author.
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He got his big break in 1965 when he joined an acting group called the Serpent Players. Here, he created and acted in many famous but unpublished plays. Through the group, he eventually met two other talented playwrights named Winston Ntshona and Athol Fugard. They co-authored two internationally acclaimed plays known as Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island. Both were runaway successes and brought Tony Awards for Kani and Ntshona in the best actor categories.
Overcoming unjust treatment
Sizwe Banzi is Dead addresses the Apartheid regime and the implementation of pass laws. Unsurprisingly, the government at the time was angry that the play was garnering international attention. And as a response, Kani, along with Ntshona, were jailed for 15 days. In 1985, Kani endured his worst attack after becoming the first black actor to kiss a white actress in South African theatre. Police officials brutally assaulted him, and as a result, he lost his left eye and sustained 11 stab wounds.
But as you know, Kani is a superhero! Shortly after the attack, he made it onto British and American television and cinema. Today, he is worth around R92 million and holds high positions in South African theatre. He also continues to release plays, the latest being Kunene and The King.
Film legend John Kani shows an image of himself getting vaccinated
In related news, Briefly News previously reported that Kani got jabbed. He finally received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, but he is still taking social distancing seriously and advises others to do the same. The 77-year-old from New Brighton, Gqeberha proudly posted a photo of himself receiving his Pfizer vaccine with a content smile.
Kani posted on Twitter saying:
"Done my second Pfizer jab this morning. One small jab on my arm and I am part of the effort to save my people. "Now I am going to continue to comply with Covid19 restrictions- social distancing, wearing my mask and washing my hands regularly. Elder. "
Unsurprisingly, his post received plenty of reactions from the Twitter. Here are some of the encouraging messages:
"Congrats for the second dose. It's a little jab and does great things. I got my second one in Berlin and see we are doing the same in our places: be cautious in order to help others. After all: the rules are simple, and social distancing is not social coldness. On the contrary."
"Legend...don't think this country has honoured you enough. You are the King of Arts in this country. Stay strong King Kani!"