During his incarceration on Robben Island, Venkatrathnam, an apartheid freedom fighter, smuggled in a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, disguised it as a bible and passed it between a number of prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Many of the inmates marked their favourite passages in the book and Mandela's signature was found next to a quote from Julius Caesar, 'Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.'
Wednesday, 20 March 2019
The 9th Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa Begins April 16 and will be dedicated to liberation leader Sonny Venkatrathnam who passed away on 15 March at the age of 84.
Monday, 9 July 2018
Monday, 25 June 2018
Tuesday, 6 March 2018
‘Ethical Leadership Workshops’ Paper to be delivered at the ‘Applying Shakespeare Symposium’ at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford upon Avon
This will be the first opportunity that I have had to speak about these workshops having delivered several in South Africa and the United Kingdom over the past three years.
One of the key aspects of the workshop is to examine the ability of Shakespeare & the former political prisoners to educate and spark debate around the subject of ethical leadership. The purpose of the workshop is to come to a group definition of the practices of ethical leadership, briefly share some of Shakespeare’s lessons on Leadership, and offer some applications for leadership development.
- The participants will explore how the theme of leadership is portrayed and explored in a selection of Shakespeare’s plays and in interviews with a selection of former political prisoners from Robben Island.
- The participants will examine the current situation of their own behaviour around leadership and of those currently in leadership roles.
- The participants will make positive changes in their own behaviour around leadership.
- The participants will create pieces of new writing with a focus on young people’s perceptions of ethical leadership.
Saturday, 8 April 2017
Monday, 6 March 2017
The book's significance resides in the fact that the book's owner, Sonny Venkatratham, passed it to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells, including Nelson Mandela, asking them to mark their favourite passages with a signature and date. Informally known as "The Robben Island Bible", numerous prisoners selected the speeches that meant the most to them and their experience as political prisoners.
In 2008 and 2010, playwright Matthew Hahnconducted interviews with eight former political prisoners in South Africa who were on Robben Island and signed Sonny’s ‘Bible’.
Offering a vivid and startling account of the experience of these political prisoners during Apartheid, his extraordinary verbatim play called "The Robben Island Shakespeare" weaves Shakespeare's words together with first-hand accounts from these men. They offer their reflections on their time as Liberation activists and, twenty years later, on the costs, consequences and whether or not it was all worth it.
For more information about the play and the accompanying Ethical Leadership Workshops, please visit The Robben Island Shakespeare website