South african actor, director and playwright John Kani. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams
South african actor, director and playwright John Kani. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams
New York
New York

Johannesburg - Celebrated local actor and a wise sage to younger actors in the profession, Dr John Kani, chats to Diane de Beer about his travels.

First holiday memory?

My grandfather had a farm just outside Kenton-on-Sea near Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape. I was about 12 years old. We drove from Port Elizabeth with my whole family during the December school holidays. The journey from Port Elizabeth in my father’s 1955 Chevrolet (please do not pronounce the t) was the most memorable for me. We arrived at my grandfather’s farm in the afternoon, and there he was, Fikile Jacob Kani, standing next to his 1929 Ford. It was then that I believed my grandmother when she said that I was a descendant of great kingdoms.

Favourite place in South Africa?

New Brighton, Port Elizabeth. It is in that small township where I harvest the stories that I share with the world.

Best holiday?

uMhlanga Rocks in KZN – and I left my cellphone at home in Joburg. I didn’t answer any calls for two weeks.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I always held the view that I had the monopoly on suffering, that apartheid was the most inhumane system of oppression – until I visited Australia in 1976. In Brisbane I met with some Aboriginal elders: their suffering, in silence, overwhelmed me. It made me realise that the world has very big problems and we need leaders who have the courage to do the right thing urgently.

Ideal travelling companion?

My wife Mandi, who always packs my bags and says goodbye whenever I have to travel to do work. She is fun to be with and she still behaves as if she is my girlfriend.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Culture vulture. Obviously!

Greatest travel luxury?

I am very impatient these days with travel time. I wish somehow I could say “beam me up Scottie”, to teleport me to my destination in a blink of the eye.

Holiday reading?

Our profession is a very selfish one. We spend all our free time reading and writing and editing scripts in preparation for future work.

Which place has seduced you?

I would move to New York tomorrow.

Worst travel experience?

In 1972 I took a train from PE to Joburg. It was the longest, endless journey.

Best hotel?

George Hotel in Washington DC. You are treated like royalty for $1 000 a night. We stayed there, Winston Ntshona and I, after winning the Tony Awards.

Favourite walk, swim, ride or drive?

I enjoy walking anywhere. It is the only time I am truly alone.

Best meal abroad?

New York pastrami sandwich, piled high and dragged through the bush with the blood and juice still dripping. Hahahaha!

Favourite city?

Port Elizabeth, my home town.

Where next?

To Atlanta, Georgia, to make an appearance in a blockbuster movie that my son is more excited about than I. (Confidentiality clause.)

l Tony Award winner, celebrated local actor and a wise sage to younger actors in the profession, Dr John Kani recently toured the country with his critically acclaimed, self-penned production, Missing, his first full-length play since 2002’s Nothing But the Truth.

Saturday Star