Ken Gampu

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Ken Gampu (1929-2003). Teacher, stage, film and TV actor and impressario.


Perhaps the first black South African superstar. Born in Germiston, he had several jobs before he began his career (e.g physical training instructor, salesman, interpreter and police officer). He died on 4 November 2003 in Vosloosrus, survived by his wife and two sons.



He took up a bursary from the Women's Art Club to study acting at Dorkay House.


In 1964 he left South Africa to work for Paramount and 20th Century Fox in Hollywood for a few years. Returned in the 1970s to continue his local career, but still working on many international films.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He starred in No-Good Friday, Athol Fugard’s first play, which was staged at the Bantu Men's Social Centre (BMSC) in conjunction with the Union of Southern African Artists in 1958 and went on to act in plays such as King Kong (1959), Of Mice and Men ((as “Lenny”, 1975), and Ipi Ntombi (19*, reviving it in 1999 as entrepreneur and actor, with ****, the daughter of the original impressario, ***).

His film debut came with Tremor (1960), but it was Jamie Uys's Dingaka (1964) which made him famous.

His film credits include: The Naked Prey (1966), Target of an Assassin (1976), Slavers (1978), The Wild Geese (1978), Zulu Dawn (1979), The Gods Must Be Crazy (1981), Claws (1982), King Solomon’s Mines (1985), Morenga (1985), American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1991), Lethal Ninja (1993) and Cyborg Cop II (1994), A Reasonable Man (1999). He also had a role in Ramadan Suleman's film Fools based on Njabulo Ndebele's short stories.

Regular TV appearances include series such as Ihashi Lensimbi and River Horse Lake.

Awards, etc

In 1994 he was awarded a Silver medal by the city of Benoni, in recognition of his contribution to the performing arts.

He received a Vita Lifetime Achievement Award (Gauteng region) award year 2002.


SACD 1978/79.

Tucker, 1997. pp 119, 315.

Mona de Beer, 1995.

The Times 04/12/2003, Die Burger 15/11/2003, The Guardian 19/11/2003.

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