Artists Honoured at Closing Ceremony for Heritage Month
Nelson Mandela Bay honoured some of its ambassadors in Arts and Culture
at a very successful Heritage Month Closing Ceremony at Nangoza Jebe
Hall which also doubled as the start of an annual ceremony that will be
held to honour artists.

The highly recognized names of the Nelson Mandela Bay-born Winston
Ntshona, John Kani, Athol Fugard, Welcome Duru, Poni Bantam and Nohle
Nkonyeni received hand-crafted trophies and the honour of being the
first recipients of the inaugural annual awards to artists from within
our shores.

Cllr Mike Kwenaite, Standing Committee
Chairperson for Recreation and
Culture, said the decision was taken well before the death of jazz
maestro Welcome Duru, or Bra Well as he was affectionately known, to
honour him and his fellow artists for their inspirational work and the
fact that they became notable ambassadors for Nelson Mandela Bay over
the years.

“We must honour our artists while they are still alive so that they can
see our appreciation for the significant roles they are playing in
society,” Cllr Kwenaite added.

Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Nondumiso Maphazi graced the
occasion by handing over the specially made trophies and expressed a
word of congratulations to the recipients.

Mr Winston Ntshona thanked the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality for the
awards and encouraged established artists to nurture young talent as
part of their own growth.

Ntshona recalled memories of himself, John Kani, Welcome Duru and Athol
Fugard being members of the Serpent Players, a drama group that was
established in 1961 in the dusty streets of New Brighton. Currently
most of the members of the Serpent Players are influential
role players in the Performing Arts arena.


Winston Ntshona:
Winston Ntshona was born on 6
October 1941, in Port Elizabeth, in South
Africa’s Eastern Cape region. His remarkable stage chemistry with John
Kani began to take shape as the two performed in plays together in high
school. Staying on in Port Elizabeth and working in a laboratory at a
Ford Motor Company plant, Ntshona was introduced by Kani to The Serpent
Players, a theatre group founded by the anti-apartheid white South
African playwright, Athol Fugard, and so named because its stage was
located above what had once been a snake pit.

Career: Ford Motor Company plant, early 1960s, Serpent Players actor,
1967 – 1972, stage and film actor and playwright, 1970s onwards,
Eastern Cape Cultural Units, South Africa, chairman, 2000 onwards.

Selected Awards: Tony Award,1975, for The Island, National Arts Council
of South Africa, Living Treasure Awards.

Appeared in The Air Up There and co-authored Statements
with Athol Fugard.

Welcome Duru
Welcome Duru, prominent South African song
writer, or “Bra Well” as he was affectionately known. He was born on 24
October 1933 in Port Elizabeth.  He was the second of Tolley
and Lhalha Duru’s children. He is considered as one of South Africa’s
jazz legends. He displayed a music talent from a very young age. The
great township classic “Wenyuku’mbombela” made him a household name in
African jazz, both nationally and internationally.

Duru toured the country and other neighbouring countries, grooming
actors and actresses soon to make it into the world of acting. He was
known for his charisma, love and flair. Duru will be remembered as a
disciplined man who was hungry for success.

Poni Bantom:
Poni Bantom was born on 24 November 1939   in e-Xaba
Township, Uitenhage. He is seventh of the children of late Mbovane and
Senku Bantom. He started singing in 1954 with a group he formed, known
as the Delmo Harmonaires. He is a composer, arranger and manager of his

His type of music, which is a combination of jazz and 
mbaqanga, was inspired by groups such as the Manhattans of Dambuza
Mdledle and the Woody-Woody Packers of Victor Ndlazulwana. He has been
in the music business ever since and has regrouped since some of his
original members of the former Yankee Brothers.

John Kani:
Dr John Kani (born 1943) is a celebrated South African
playwright, best known for his numerous performances in protest theatre
during the apartheid years, including Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Master
Harold and the Boys, Saturday Night at the Palace, The Island and My
Children! My Africa!

Kani was born in New Brighton, South Africa.

Kani’s work has been widely performed around the world, including New
York, where he and Winston Ntshona won a Tony Award in 1975 for Sizwe
Banzi is Dead and The Island.  These two plays were presented
in repertory at the Edison Theatre for a total of 52 performances.

Kani is executive trustee of the Market Theatre Foundation, founder and
director of the Market Theatre Laboratory and chairman of the National
Arts Council of South Africa.

John Kani in Othello. Nothing But The Truth by John Kani.

Nomhle Nkonyeni:
Nomhle Nkonyeni was born on 9 April 1942 in New Brighton.  Her
parents were Tsobola and Edwin Nkonyeni.  She started acting
in 1961.  She has appeared in numerous television productions,
including Mzantsi, Tsha Tsha and the television mini-series,
Society.  She also appeared in the 2004 feature film, Red
Dust. She has worked with the abovementioned creative art worker,
Winston Ntshona, as well as Dr John Kani.

Athol Fugard:
Athol Fugard (born 11 June 1932) is a South African playwright,
novelist, actor, and director who writes in English. He is best known
for his political plays opposing the South African apartheid system and
for the 2005 Academy-Award winning film of his novel, Tsotsi, directed
by Gavin Hood.

His return to Port Elizabeth led to an association with The Serpent
Players, and the collaboration eventually yielded Boesman and Lena (in
which Fugard served as both writer and star). Since then, the talented
actor and playwright’s work has been performed around the globe.

Fugard aided the careers of Ntshona and Kani in various ways. At a time
when black South African adults were required by law to carry a
passbook dictating where they could travel within the country, he
invented fictitious employment status for Ntshona as his chauffeur and
Kani as gardener.

Fugard’s play, Tsotsi, became a succesful movie. Exits and Entrances was written by
Fugard in 2008. In Cousins: A Memoir, Athol Fugard
wrote his most moving and personal work.

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