These five are honoured by KKNK this year

A legendary actress, an internationally renowned writer, a young voice with a bright future, a man who has left deep traces in the Klein Karoo and a visual artist with South Africa in his blood.

KKNK 2024 Colbert Mashile

At this year’s KKNK recognition is given to Jana Cilliers, Deon Meyer, Eldon van der Merwe, Poem Mooney, and the Festival Artist Colbert Mashile. The 28th KKNK takes place in Oudtshoorn from Saturday 23 to Sunday 31 March.

KKNK 2024 Deon Meyer © Wil Punt

Actress Jana Cilliers receives the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Acting and says this honour is so much more special because she is on stage at the KKNK this year in a production she also wrote. “You can’t play what is not written,” she says.

KKNK 2024 Eldon van der Merwe © Nardus Engelbrecht

The production is Veelhoek, a conversation between Cilliers and her nephew Barnard Gilliland, the promising poet who died in a motor vehicle accident sixty years ago, at the age of 24.

KKNK 2024 Jana Cilliers

Cilliers, intelligent, soft spoken, and timelessly beautiful, says she is shy to talk about how her work is appreciated. “It is a question we must ask ourselves all the time: Who do you serve? For me, the work should do the talking. Theatre is a living moment, and the audience is as much part of it. This honouring by the KKNK, which has been contributing to keeping the arts alive for so long, is also an honouring of the right for the theatre to exist.”

KKNK 2024 Poem Mooney © Ryan Dammert

Deon Meyer receives the KKNK Afrikaans Onbeperk Prize for Literary Contribution. “This prize is a tremendous honour and caught me off guard. And this is not false humility. To be honoured for something that you enjoy doing so much, almost feels wrong,” he says.

In 2018, Coenie de Villiers convinced Meyer to be part of the production Karoo Suite. Karoo Suite II: Karoonagte followed and, like its predecessor, was a huge success amongst audiences. “So, when Coenie said we have to collaborate for a musical, it took me 15 seconds to say yes.”

The musical, Roem, debuts at the KKNK with amongst others Anrich Herbst, Daneel van der Walt, Eldon van der Merwe and the newcomer Nelandi Boshoff in the cast.

“It is a dream I’ve had since I heard the soundtrack of Tommy when I was 19,” Meyer says. “It took so many years for Coenie to make this dream of mine come true.”

Eldon van der Merwe is honoured with the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Young Voice. He was 12 years old when he was cast in the stage production of Fiela se kind and studied drama after school at Northlink College. Roles in series like Arendsvlei and Ouboet en Wors followed, as well as work on stage in amongst other plays Fietsry vir dommies, which can be seen at the KKNK this year. The versatile Van der Merwe is also on stage in the musical Roem.

The prize for Young Voice is a great privilege for him. “I am a kid from Piketberg,” Van der Merwe says. “I take my hat off to organisations like Kunste Onbeperk and NATi that invest in the arts. I dedicate this award to all young people. May they also receive the chances I got.”

The legendary storyteller and writer Poem Mooney receives the KKNK Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Arts and Culture. He has written books like Kringe om die maan, Dit klink soos ’n klok and Stories uit Lap (his book about Prince Albert) and he is Chief of the Attakwa Khoisan organisation which he represented in 2000 at the World Summit of Indigenous Nations in Switzerland.

If he could single out one highlight in his life of 81 years, it is the fact that he started Kairos in Oudtshoorn, a school for children with special needs. Later, Eljada, a centre for intellectually disabled adults and Kairos merged. “That is the greatest moment in my life,” he says.

Mooney’s love for Afrikaans is evident in everything he does, and when he speaks. “If you are bound to a language, you have a place, and this binds you to your country. The KKNK is also such a tie that has had an influence on our community from the start. Not only in Oudtshoorn, but also from south to north. How many festivals have not started after that?”

He would like to be remembered for his involvement in the community. “I never want to live in any other country. We must stay positive. If you are positive, you can continue.”  Mooney launches his new book, Waaraan dink poëte? at the KKNK and his stories will also be showcased in a special public even, Die staaltjiemeester.

Colbert Mashile is this year’s Festival Artist. As a child he used any possible surface to draw on and after school in Bosbokrand in Mpumalanga he went to Pretoria to study Public Administration. But in the City of jacaranda trees, the young Mashile discovered art galleries for the first time and knew: This is what I want to do. I want to become an artist.

His journey first took him to the Johannesburg Art Foundation, followed by a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand.

“My youth definitely has an influence on my work,” says Mashile, who has a studio in Johannesburg, but lives in Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga. “We did not have books, a TV or electricity. All we had was a radio and the stories that we listened to in the evenings. Many of these stories were based on folk tales that shaped my imagination.”

What can festivalgoers expect from his exhibition at the KKNK? “It is a diverse collection of work from different times in my life. There is also new work that I created for the festival. Some of the work may not look like the others but is exactly that diversity that I like.”

KKNK 2024 is sponsored by Absa, Checkers, Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds, NATi, Netwerk24, kykNET, ATKV, Oudtshoorn Municipality and the Western Cape Government.

The complete festival programme is available online at www.kknk.co.za and tickets are available at Webtickets. For more information, keep an eye on the KKNK’s social media platforms, visit the website or contact 044 203 8600, send an email to info@kknk.co.za or a WhatsApp to 065 285 2337.

Jana Cilliers (a legendary actress), Deon Meyer (an internationally renowned writer), Eldon van der Merwe (a young voice with a bright future), Poem Mooney (a man who has left deep traces in the Klein Karoo) and Colbert Mashile (a visual artist with South Africa in his blood) are honoured by the KKNK in 2024.

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