Dr. John Kani, best known for his role as T’Chaka in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, has apparently been awarded the highly coveted Pragnell Shakespeare Award for his original play Kunene and the King. The renowned award comes two years after the premiere of Kunene and the King at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.
The Pragnell Shakespeare Prize, according to the Shakespeare Institute, is a worldwide award that has recognized Dr. Kani’s play for its appreciation and promotion of Shakespearean knowledge. Kani informed her followers on Twitter about the wonderful news.
Kunene and King is set 25 years after the first democratic elections in post-apartheid South Africa. The story revolves around two characters: a successful but chronically ill white senior man, played by British actor Antony Sher, and his Black male caregiver, Dr. Kani. The two guys, who come from completely different backgrounds, are forced into an uncomfortable intimacy in order to ponder on the changes in South Africa. Throughout, their mutual love for Shakespeare’s works elevates their bond to new heights. Sher and Kani reenact a funeral address from Caesar in one poignant sequence; Morris begins in English and Dr. Kani finishes in isiXhosa. Okayafrica contributes to this article.
Dr. John Kani
Dr. John Kani announced a month ago that Kunene and the King had been chosen as one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s top ten theatre works. Since his early years, when he came across Shakespeare’s play texts in isiXhosa, the 77-year-old has maintained an everlasting affection for the Bard. He was also the first Black actor to play Othello in the Market Theatre’s 1987 production of the play, which sparked controversy.
MLA, MY AGENT, THANK YOU. THIS HONOR HAS HUMBLED ME. PIC.TWITTER.COM/AE7ZX2CDUD JOHNKANI (@JOHNKANI2) 26 APRIL 2021.
For more than a decade, Dr. Kani has been a standout actor, director, writer, and activist. In 1975, he earned a Tony Award for his prolific and career-defining play Sizwe Banzi is Dead, which he co-wrote with Athol Fugurd and Winston Ntshona. In 2016, he made his international film debut, co-starring in the 2018 Marvel blockbuster Black Panther alongside the late Chadwick Boseman. Dr. Kani was also the driving force behind the declaration of isiXhosa as Wakanda’s national language. He also provided the voice for Rafiki in the 2019 adaptation of The Lion King.
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