Playwright Van Graan scoops R1m prize for his crusading talent

03 September 2017 - 12:51 By Bobby Jordan
Veteran playwright, Mike van Graan. File photo.
Veteran playwright, Mike van Graan. File photo.
Image: Rapport/Christiaan Kotze/ Gallo Images

Multiple award-winning Cape Town playwright Mike van Graan has done it again — this time scooping one of the world’s most coveted prizes‚ worth R1-million.

Van Graan has won the 2018 Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture‚ a biannual international award recognising those who “foster dialogue‚ understanding and peace in conflict areas”.

He is the second South African to scoop the accolade‚ following in the footsteps of playwright and theatre director John Kani.

The foundation praised Van Graan “for his contribution to the fight against apartheid‚ to building a post-apartheid society and to the study of the interface between peace and culture both in his home country and across the African continent”.

It added: “In taking the decision to present Mike van Graan with the award‚ the board stressed both his impressive literary work‚ his important role in shaping and monitoring post-apartheid cultural policies and his policy‚ advocacy and capacity-building work in the field of culture and its contribution to development‚ human rights and peace in Africa.”

Van Graan is an associate professor of drama at the University of Cape Town‚ where he graduated in the 1980s. He has distinguished himself as a talented playwright and arts activist‚ and once served as a special advisor to democratic South Africa’s first arts minister‚ Ben Ngubane. He is credited with helping to shape the country’s post-apartheid cultural policies.

He is a Unesco technical expert on the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

Van Graan has written 29 plays‚ the most recent being When Swallows Cry‚ addressing contemporary African migration and refugees‚ and the satirical revue State Fracture. Some of his best-known works include 'Die Generaal' (2008)‚ Brothers in Blood (2009)‚ and Iago's Last Dance (2009).

The Hiroshima Foundation was created in 1989 following a bequest by the Swedish author Edita Morris (1902-1988). It is named after Morris’ most famous novel‚ The Flowers of Hiroshima‚ which describes the suffering caused by the atomic bomb.

The prize will be handed to Van Graan next May in Malmo‚ Sweden.