/ 16 September 2008

Farewell to John Matshikiza

Writer and actor John Matshikiza, a long-time contributor to the Mail & Guardian, died in Johannesburg on the evening of September 15, said his daughter, Lindiwe. He was 54

He collapsed in a restaurant in Melville. ”He suffered a massive heart attack and couldn’t be resuscitated,” she said.

Matshikiza was born in Johannesburg in 1954 and grew up in Lusaka and London. While in London, he trained in drama and also worked in theatre, television and film as an actor, director and writer.

He also lived in the United States, Amsterdam and various African countries including Senegal, where he was director of the department of culture of the Gorée Institute for some time, according to an entry on the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s website.

He returned to South Africa in 1991 and directed plays at the Market and Windybrow theatres, wrote and directed documentaries and dramas for television and appeared in various films.

Among others, he was seen in Hijack Stories, Leon Schuster’s There’s a Zulu on My Stoep, Cry Freedom and 1987’s Mandela, in which he played the role of Walter Sisulu.

One of Matshikiza’s last acting roles was the villain in the third series of the television series Hard Copy.

He was also a columnist and feature writer for newspapers including the M&G, where his With the Lid Off column ran from several years from the mid-Nineties.

In 2002 he won the regional and national Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award in the specialist category for his column, which appeared in a collection of his and his father Todd’s works titled With the Lid Off: South African Insights from Home and Abroad, published in 2000.

Matshikiza’s published works also include South Where Her Feet Cool on Ice (1981) and Prophets in the Black Sky (1986).

Matshikiza’s father, Todd, was a renowned jazz pianist, composer and journalist. He was one of the first contributors to Drum magazine in the early 1950s, and shot to fame in 1958 with his musical King Kong, which had an all-black cast.