Gibson Kente dead at 72

Famous South African playwright Gibson Kente, who told the world he had HIV/Aids in early 2003, died at his Soweto home on Sunday, a close relative confirmed.

Kente’s cousin, Nomathemba Kela, said that the playwright, called a “living treasure” by the National Arts Council, died in his sleep at about 2.30am.

“He was a very strong person, a role model for many artists,” Kela said.

“He had a positive attitude towards others and fought a very brave fight for a long time.”

Kente was born in East London in 1932.

His education was in the field of Social Work at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work, the NAC says in a showcase biography on its website.

Kente started out in the field of the arts in the early 1960s when he worked at Union Artists, based at Dorkay House in Johannesburg.

In 1963 Kent produced his first play, Manana, The Jazz Prophet, which was primarily designed for township audiences.

In 1966 he produced his second play, Sikalo, which enjoyed huge township support and was then introduced to multiracial audiences at the Wits Great Hall.

It was at this point that Kente broke from Union Artists to launch his own township theatre.

Black urbanisation and the Group Areas Act led to what became known as “township theatre”—and Kente was its founding father.

Kente’s plays were among the first to be located in the township reality of crime, hooliganism, alcoholism, love and politics.

His musicals were a break from township life and became an inspiration and for a generation of artists who followed, including Peter Se-puma, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Mbongeni Ngema, the late Brenda Fassie, and Nomsa Nene.

It is estimated that Kente trained about 400 artists. He also produced about 23 plays and three television dramas between 1963 and 1992. - Sapa

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