John Kani bio: net worth, books, movies, what happened to his eye?

John Kani bio: net worth, books, movies, what happened to his eye?

John Kani is a famous South African playwright, actor, author, and director. He gained his fame from his roles in different movies.

John Kani
Dr John Kani at the GQ Man in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Oupa Bopape
Source: Getty Images

John has won the hearts of many people worldwide. His charismatic character has caught the attention of both the young and old.

Profile summary

  • Name: John Kani
  • Date of birth: 30th August 1943
  • Age: 77 years old (as of 2020)
  • Place of birth: New Brighton, Port Elizabeth
  • Nationality: South African
  • Net worth: $6 million
  • Son: Atandwa Kani
  • Occupation: Actor, director, playwright, author

John Kani biography

Here is everything you need to know about the actor's life, including details about his career and personal life.

Early life

John Kani Bonisile was born on 30th August 1943 in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. How old is John Kani? John Kani age is 77 years old as of the year 2020.

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The actor grew up at a time when the country was facing apartheid.

John Kani actor
John Kani during an interview at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times/Gallo Images
Source: Getty Images

Educational background

John Kani young attended Newell High school in New Brighton. He was a very active student who participated in various activities in the school drama club.


His career in acting began in the year 1965 when he joined the Serpent Players acting group in Port Elizabeth. The Serpent group created plays, most of which were never published but were performed to a resounding reception.

In the 1970s, he was honored to co-write Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island acts that have made his name a household name all around the world.

His work has significantly been performed around the world, including in New York. He has starred in various movies, some of which were directed by Jon Favreau, a producer and director in the Hollywood industry.

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John Kani movies and TV shows

Here are some of the famous movies, plays, and TV shows the actor has played a role in.


  • Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1972)
  • The Island (1973)
  • Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act
  • My Children My Africa!
  • Nothing But the Truth (2002)
  • The Tempest (2008)
  • Missing (2014)
  • Kunene and the King (2019)
John Kani movies
John Kani poses for a photo. Photo: JohnKani
Source: Facebook

Television roles

  • BBC2 Playhouse (1974) as Styles / Buntu
  • Play for Today (1978) as George O'Brien
  • Master Harold...and the Boys (1985) as Willie
  • Miss Julie (1986) as John
  • Othello (1989) as Othello
  • Kap der Rache (1997) as Inspektor Khumalo
  • Hillside (2006) as Dr Vincent Maloka
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (2008) as Daddy Bapetsi
  • iNkaba ( 2012) as Mkhuseli Mthetho
  • Wallander (2015) as Max Khulu

Film roles

  • The Wild Geese (1978) as Sgt. Jesse Link
  • Marigolds in August (1980) as Melton
  • Killing Heat (1981) as Moses
  • Saturday Night at the Palace (1987) as September
  • An African Dream (1987) as Khatana
  • Options ( 1987) as Jonas Mabote
  • A Dry White Season (1989) as Julius
  • The Native Who Caused All the Trouble (1989) as Tselilo Mseme
  • Sarafina! (1992) as School Principal
  • Soweto Green: This Is a 'Tree' Story (1995) as Dr Curtis Tshabalala
  • The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) as Samuel
  • Kini and Adams (1997) as Ben
  • The Tichborne Claimant (1998) as Bogle
  • Final Solution (2001) as Rev. Peter Lekota
  • The Bird Can't Fly (2007) as Stone
  • Nothing but the Truth (2008) as Sipho
  • Endgame (2009) as Oliver Tambo
  • White Lion (2010) as Old Gisani
  • Coriolanus (2011) as General Cominius
  • How to Steal 2 Million (2011) as Julius Twala Snr.
  • Jail Caesar (2012) as Marius
  • The Suit (2016) as Mr Maphikela
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016) as T'Chaka
  • Black Panther (2018) as T'Chaka
  • Murder Mystery (2019) as Colonel Ulenga
  • The Lion King (2019) as Rafiki (voice)

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John Kani actor awards and nominations

  • Nominated for the Oliver award for his role in My Children! My Africa
  • Won a Tony Award for Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island(1975)
  • Awarded the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation award (2000)
  • Won the Fleur du Cap awards as the best actor and best new South African play (2003)
  • Won a Special Obie award for his extraordinary contribution to the theatre in the United States of America (2003)
  • Awarded the Oliver Schreiner Prize (2005)
  • The University of Cape Town awarded him an honorary doctorate (2005)
  • In 2013, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University appointed him an honorary Doctor of Philosophy.
  • In 2016 he received the national order of the Order of Ikhamanga in silver for his excellent contribution in theatre and for his struggle towards making South Africa democratic, non-sexist and non-racial.

John Kani books

  • Nothing but the Truth
  • Statements
  • The Island
  • Kunene and the King
  • Missing a play
  • Sizwe Bansi is Dead $ The Island

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John Kani left eye

John Kani lazy eye
John Kani poses for a photo. Photo: John Kani
Source: Facebook

How did John Kani lose his eye? He lost his left eye when the South African police beat him up while he was on his way home from a Broadway production.

They left him to die but luckily, he survived even though John Kani eye was damaged beyond repair. John Kani lazy eye is not easily noticeable since the actor almost always has his glasses on.

John Kani glass eye

After losing his left eye, he was forced to wear a prosthesis. This is what he currently has on his left eye socket. John Kani fake eye was designed to replace the eye he lost.

John Kani son

John has a son by the name Atandwa Kani who is an actor. Atandwa was born on 6th June 1984 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He starred in Black Panther as the younger version of his father's character.

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John Kani son
Dr. John Kani (R) with his son Atandwa Kani pose for a photo at the Netflix World Premiere Of "Murder Mystery" in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Rachel Murray
Source: Getty Images

John Kani height and weight

He stands at a height of 5 feet 8 inches, and he weighs 66kg. He is dark in complexion, has black hair colour and dark brown eye colour.

John Kani net worth

The actor has earned a substantial amount of income from acting, directing, play-writing and from his theatre company. He has an approximated net worth of $6 million.

John Kani stroke

Not many details are known about his health or if he suffered a stroke before.

John Kani is known to be a gentleman. His down-to-earth personality and charming demeanor never fail to impress the general public.

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The actor has appeared in films such as Definitely, Maybe; The Proposal; Safe House; and Van Wilder and in 2016, he starred as the titular character in the superhero film Deadpool.

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