Winston Ntshona

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Winston Ntshona (1941-2018). Actor, director and playwright.


Born on 6 October 1941 in Port Elizabeth, matriculated from Newell High School where he performed in school plays with John Kani. During the 1960s Winston worked at the Ford Motor Company plant in Port Elizabeth. In 1967, Ntshona joined the Serpent Players drama group where he continued working with Kani and also collaborated with Athol Fugard.

His name was third on the list of Pan Africanist Congress candidates for the first National Assembly in a democratic South Africa in 1994.

He died in Port Elizabeth on 2 August 2018, at the age of 77.




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

Ntshona appeared in around 20 Serpent Players productions between 1967 and 1972. His first “real” theatre experience was The Terrorists at The Space in the 1970s, where he later also performed in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead. In 1972 a collaboration between John Kani, Athol Fugard and Ntshona led to Sizwe Bansi is Dead, and was followed by The Island in 1973. The two plays were widely performed in South African and internationally, going on tour in 1974.

Kani and Ntshona also conducted workshops in New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles. On their return to South African in 1976 Kani and Ntshona began to tour rural areas of the country with the plays and conducted drama workshops wherever the plays were performed. They were at one time arrested and detained, and released after mass demonstrations. They did not perform The Island again until 1995.

He also starred in Barney Simon’s production of Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith together with John Kani and Janet Suzman at the Market Theatre in 1979, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with John Kani and Pieter-Dirk Uys, directed by Donald Howarth (Baxter Theatre and Market Theatre, 1980) and Kessie Govender’s Kagoos(Market Theatre, 1988).

Ntshona’s success in New York led to a series of film roles in the 1980s and 1990s, including The Wild Geese (1978); Gandhi, Marigolds in August (1984) and A Dry White Season (1989).

In 2002 he directed a new play Ghetto Goats (by three young actors from Port Elizabeth).

Ntshona took a post as the chairman of the Eastern Cape Cultural Units arts agency working to interest young South Africans in theatre.


He received international recognition when he and John Kani were each awarded a Tony for best actor for Sizwe Bansi is Dead and The Island.

He won a Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award, February 2005.

On 27 April 2010, Ntshona was award The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for “His excellent contribution to theatre and the arts scene in South Africa.” ,

He was also honoured with a Living Treasures award from South Africa’s National Arts Council.


South African History Online

Tucker, 1997.

The Star, 15 February 2005.

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