LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Ken Gampu

Ken Gampu—Born in South Africa in 1929, actor Ken Gampu rose to prominence during the height of apartheid, and helped pave the way not only for black actors in South Africa, but the entire content as well. Gampu is probably best remembered by American audiences for his role as the president in The Gods Must Be Crazy or the tribal leader in The Naked Prey. He never got much of a chance to play lead roles, but frequently turned up as the bad guy in a lot of African-lensed films, and he was one of the only black actors to get any kind of fame during the oppressive apartheid era of South Africa, when segregation was still legal. Despite the critical praise he received for both his stage work in plays like No Good Friday or films like Dingaka, which brought him international recognition, Gampu was still a victim of the racist government of his homeland. At the same time, he was an inspiration who served as a symbol of hope that blacks in South Africa could break free of the oppressive system that held them down. In 1975 Gampu made history when he was granted special permission by the government to share the stage with white actors in the play Of Mice and Men. “For the first time the black man was on an equal footing with the white man, and you know, the heavens didn’t fall,” said Gampu during an interview, looking back on something that meant everything and nothing at the same time.

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