South African actor John Kani, currently appearing alongside Antony Sher in Kunene and the King, which John also wrote, has paid a special visit to Nelson Mandela School in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham.

John spoke to 120 Year 5 and 6 pupils, aged 10-11, about his experiences of living and working in South Africa, both under apartheid and since the first democratic elections, which took place 25 years ago in 1994.  John also talked about his own relationship with, and memories of, Nelson Mandela.

John was accompanied by Lungiswa Plaatjies, a South African musician who performs music during Kunene and the King. Lungiswa played some of the music from the show encouraging the students to sing along.

group of school children with John Kani in the centre
John Kani with pupils from Nelson Mandela School in Birmingham
Photo by Dean Asker © RSC Browse and license our images

The school’s headteacher Azita Zohhadi: “I am delighted that we have had the privilege of sharing our school with John Kani and listening to him share his experiences and thoughts about humanity. He was inspirational and has truly touched the hearts of everyone present. We will take with us the importance of taking time out of our busy lives to stop and look into the eyes of others. We must not think about what divides us: we should find what connects us.

"John helped us feel a personal connection with a remarkable man, Nelson Mandela. A man who found strength and hope from books, a man who continues to share his values of love, respect and compassion. John Kani brought Nelson Mandela back to our school.”

Nelson Mandela School was officially opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1988, and Nelson Mandela visited the school himself in 1993. It is a Lead Associate School in our Associate Schools Programme, which aims to immerse teachers and students in a new approach to teaching Shakespeare, based on the techniques RSC actors use in rehearsals.