Cultural activist Mike van Graan receives honorary doctorate from UP

Posted on April 24, 2018

Cultural activist Mike van Graan was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria. Van Graan is one of South Africa’s most prominent, provocative and celebrated playwrights and the recipient of numerous national and international awards and accolades, which bear testimony not only to theatre but to his broader contribution to the cultural landscape as well.

Van Graan received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Faculty of Humanities.

‘Mike van Graan has dedicated his career to uplifting arts and culture in South Africa. He has been a courageous and provocative advocate not only for local theatre, but also for the broader field of cultural heritage in general. We are honoured to be able to formally recognise his achievements,’ said Prof Vasu Reddy, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.

He graduated from the University of Cape Town with an honours degree in drama in 1986, and is currently an honorary associate professor of drama at the same university. He was actively involved in student politics, and in his professional career he has been involved in playwrighting, arts and culture policy creation and advocacy, building and leading arts and cultural networks, and representing marginalised regions in international events and organisations.

Following the 1994 elections, Van Graan was appointed special advisor to the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. In this role he formulated post-apartheid cultural policies and the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage after the 1994 elections. He was also appointed a technical advisor to UNESCO in the field of protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions, and has served in leadership capacities in various non-governmental and arts organisations.

He has never lost his commitment to social justice.

‘His plays interrogate South Africa’s socio-political conditions and he locates these explorations in a deeply human context to create layered and emotionally evocative plays. His plays are testimony to a critical and political consciousness that both demonstrates and encourages engaged, critical citizenship in and through the theatre,’ the citation reads in part.

The honorary doctorate is bestowed upon Van Graan in recognition of his exceptional contribution to not only the South African theatre landscape, but also for the broader domain of arts and culture.

This year, the University has also awarded honorary doctorates to artist William Kentridge (12 April) and theologian Emmanuel Lartey (20 April). Later this month, Indian historian Romila Thapar will be awarded with an honorary doctorate on 8 May, also by the Faculty of Humanities.

The University will once again live stream all graduation ceremonies. Family and friends who cannot attend in person are able to connect on  

- Author Department of University Relations

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