Nothing but the truth

2010-09-24 11:51

In high school, one of my favourite subjects was English. In my last two years, we studied 24 literary works which included English literature (such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd), African folktales, Chinese poetry, Indian fiction and Greek mythology.

We also studied Athol Fugard’s The Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena and Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, which he developed with John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

This experience infused me with an admiration for Fugard, Kani and Ntshona that has stayed with me to this day.

So you can imagine my excitement when, in a previous life, at a previous job, on a chilly Sunday morning, I had the honour of interviewing John Kani on the meaning and significance of ‘ubuntu’.

The interview was telephonic so I was not blessed enough to actually meet him but his wisdom and warmth travelled across Telkom’s phone lines and added a little light and insight to my life. In talking to him, my admiration grew a hundred-fold.

Two weeks ago, I attended at the Market Theatre the staging of Nothing But The Truth, Kani’s play that has been performed to much acclaim over the years.

For many, it was their second or third experience; I am embarrassed to say that it was the first time I was watching it.
There are no words to describe how powerful a play it is. And watching an actor who is comfortable in his genius is ­­awe-inspiring.

After the performance, I overheard a woman commenting on how they just “do not make them like John Kani any more”. It made me reflect on my life and my actions as a man. The example we had growing up had been men like John Kani – men of excellence and accomplishment. It was less about celebrity and more about achievement and commitment and dedication.

There were men in my community – teachers, uncles, friends’ fathers, my father and so forth – who all served as a model for what it meant to be a responsible man. It was about positivity and contribution to society. There were men I read about and saw on television whose deeds served as inspiration and guidance. Who they were involved with or whether they liked ‘red’ or ‘green’ had no bearing.

Have we lost sight of what is really important and can we, men, stand up and say we are carrying the legacy of men like John Kani forward?

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