Global Arts Ambassador: Dr John Kani

I was born seventy years ago. I grew up in the township of New Brighton outside Port Elizabeth. Life for me and many of my friends was to wake up and if you are very lucky, you go to school. Otherwise you would just hang around the township and watch your life being wasted away by the very cruel Apartheid System. It  was not compulsory for our parents to take us to school and they had to pay for our education.

One day our English teacher took us to see a production of Macbeth by William Shakespeare at the Opera House in the city of Port Elizabeth. We were all excited. Oh no, not to see the play; it was the opportunity to go to town. It was the bus ride that we were looking forward to. We sat in the theatre, the lights went off slowly in the auditorium. The curtain came up and magic happened. That was my first experience of being in a real theatre. From that day in 1958, my life was never the same again. I did not understand the play that much but being there in that theatre made me feel part of the magic that was happening on that stage. I could not stop talking about the play and the experience of that day. I even, for a moment, forgot about Apartheid; I even forgot that I live in a township where you could see and smell poverty. I was transported into a new world of not only my own imagination, but  also into a bigger world of possibilities. I know that education is a key to  everything. Theatre is a key that opens the door into your own imagination. From that day I promised myself that I will one day be on that stage telling all the stories that my grandmother used to tell us every night before we went to sleep.

Taking a child to the theatre is a gift that empowers the child to want to be heard. It makes the child believe that he or she also has a story to tell one day.

Dr John Kani