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Proudly South African actor Dr Bonisile John Kani has been honoured with the highly acclaimed Pragnell Shakespeare Award for his original play ‘Kunene and the King’.


South Africa (30 April 2021) – With the wisdom of Rafiki and the power of a Black Panther King, South African actor Dr Bonisile John Kani is also a director and playwright, who has now been honoured with the Shakespeare Award.

Dr Kani was born in New Brighton, Eastern Cape, and has gone on to inspire hopeful South Africans, proving that dreams can come true. His most recent international roles include Rafiki from the Lion King Live action movie and King T’Chaka in the Marvel Studios blockbuster Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.

The role which has earned his latest accolade is the lead in ‘Kunene and the King’, his original play, which premiered on the London stage two years ago.

‘Kunene and the King’ was also recently honoured by being selected as one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s top ten theatre productions. The play is set in post-apartheid South Africa, 25 years after the first democratic elections. It showcases the relationship between a sickly white man and his black male nurse. Antony Sher, a British actor plays the white man while Dr Kani plays the black male nurse.

The play focuses on the complexities of the relationship between the two men who come from very different backgrounds and have to navigate the uncomfortable closeness they need to share during all the care provided by Dr Kani’s character.

Dr Kani’s personal love of Shakespeare is featured in the play through both the characters’ passion for his works. It is this passion that knits their relationship. Sher and Kani recite the funeral speech from Caesar with Dr Kani completing the work in isiXhosa.

The Pragnell Shakespeare Award

The highly acclaimed Pragnell Shakespeare Award was founded in 1990 by Pragnell the Jeweller of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is presented annually on the occasion of Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations. This is the same day as World Book Day which was also based on Shakespeare’s Birthday.

‘The award recognises ‘outstanding achievement in extending the appreciation and enjoyment of the works of William Shakespeare and in the general advancement of Shakespearian knowledge and understanding.’ 

Anyone working in any field of Shakespearian endeavour, including theatre, criticism, or in Shakespearian scholarship is eligible. An individual who has achieved notable success in this field in the past year or so qualifies or the award can be made in recognition of sustained achievements. 

The event coincides with the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations for the anniversary of the playwright’s birth in 1564.’

This high honour was awarded to Dr John Kani and he took to Twitter to share his thanks for being considered and awarded by saying, “I am humbled by this honour. It is Afrka’s time Elder”.

Sources: Pragnell / Dr John Kani 
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Tyler Leigh Vivier
About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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