RENOWNED actor and playwright John Kani's brief homecoming next week will be an auspicious occasion – the 69-year-old will be awarded an honorary doctorate from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
The New Brighton-born personality is among five NMMU honorary degree recipients this year. The university is also awarding more than 6000 certificates, diplomas and degrees at 13 graduation ceremonies in Port Elizabeth and George from April 12 to 22.
Kani, known for his collaborations with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona in Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island, will receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree in recognition of his excellent contribution to theatre and, through this, the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.
"At last I'm going to be famous at home. I have three other honorary doctoral degrees and now finally one from the university in my home town," Kani said last night.
"The wheel has gone all around. I grew up in Port Elizabeth and I am now being honoured by my own community."
Kani has a list of accolades under the belt, including the Hiroshima Award for Peace, the Olive Schreiner Prize and the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver awarded to him by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2005.
He was honoured with a South African Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and is currently an executive trustee of the Market Theatre Foundation, director of the Market Theatre Laboratory and chairman of the National Arts Council of South Africa.
"I've just directed my son, Atandwa, who recreated my role in The Island. The play is running at the moment and we will be at the Grahamstown Festival. We also have requests from London, Washington DC and Los Angeles."
Kani is working on a play to be staged in February. The title is "a work in progress".
His book, Nothing but the Truth, is being used by Grade 12 pupils, and an abridged version is in the pipeline for Grade 9 pupils.
The father of eight and grandfather of six said he would attend the ceremony on April 17 and visit family who still lived in Port Elizabeth.
Other honorary doctorate recipients are explorer, oceanographer, author, lecturer, and environmental advocate Sylvia Earle, who will be awarded a Doctor of Science degree.
There will also be posthumous degrees awarded to former Uitenhage High School principal and Bellville College of Education rector Henry Hendricks (Doctor of Education) and advocate for non-racial sport in South Africa Hassan Howa (Doctor of Philosophy). Global advocate on the power of vaccines and medical epidemiologist Dr Seth Berkley receives a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
University spokeswoman Roslyn Baatjies said the degrees included 75 masters, 84 doctorates and 42 masters technology.