How Long?

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How Long? is a musical play by Gibson Kente (1932-2004) [1].

Several sources list the title simply as How Long.

Updated as How Long 2 in 2002.

The original text

Written and first performed in 1973, it is a melodramatic musical play with political undertones in the township style, it is based on a tale about the death of Khulu, a helpless grandmother, through brutal police action and apartheid bureaucracy.

Kente wrote the play as a response to pressure from Black Consciousness structures, which demanded that all cultural work needed to reflect the material conditions of Black people in South Africa. The play forms part of a trilogy, the only political plays written by Kente.

Because of its popularity among the black masses when performed in the township halls, the play was later banned and Kente was imprisoned when an attempt was made to film the play in 1976.

Translations and adaptations

A film version was attempted in 1976. Kente and filmmaker Thomas Mogotlane were arrested while filming in King Williams Town. It was subsequently confiscated by the police/banned and Kente imprisoned for several months.

How Long 2 (produced in 2002), was an updated version of the original play where the characters face challenges of poverty, unemployment, crime, HIV/AIDS and child abuse.


1973: Performed by Kente's own company and taken on tour, starring Dambisa Kente, Peter Se-Puma and others.

2018: Performed by the Playhouse Company, in the Playhouse Opera from 5 to 27 May, directed by Duma Ndlovu with choreography by Somizi Mhlongo and musical direction by Phelelani Mnomiya. The cast includes Thembi Mtshali, Phindile Gwala, Khaya Dladla, Mondli Makhoba and Nqobile Ndlovu. The production included a six-piece band and 13-piece orchestra ensemble


Copy Dog Editorial Enterprises. 2018. "Playhouse revives Kente's musical drama How Long?", Artslink[2]

Sydney Paul Gosher. 1988. A Historical and Critical Survey of the South African One-Act Play Written in English, Unpublished D.Litt. et Phil. Thesis, University of South Africa.

Andile Xaba. 2021. 'Collective memory and the construction of a historical narrative, analysis and interpretation of selected Soweto-based community plays (1984–1994)'. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Sam Mathe. 'Gibson Kente: Overdue yet timeous tribute'. The Star. 15 December 2017.

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