Johnny Mekoa – Award for Arts Advocacy

Johnny Mekoa - recipient of the Award for Arts Advocacy.
Johnny Mekoa – recipient of the Award for Arts Advocacy.

Dr. Ramakgobotla John Mekoa was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts Advocacy which is sponsored by Creative Feel Magazine.

Ramakgobotla John Mekoa was born on the 11th of April 1945, in Etwatwa, Benoni. His passion for jazz music started at an early age, fuelling his vision to pursue an education in the genre in order to become a jazz musician. Unfortunately in 1964 his dream seemed to slip away when he was rejected from university for being black – however, this did not deter him. His two older brothers gave him lessons over the years and during this time he would play at various jazz bars across Johannesburg.

In 1986 at the age of 41 Mekoa’s dream to study music materialized, where in 1991 he was awarded with a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Natal. Shortly afterwards he obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to study for his Masters Degree in Music at the University of Indiana in the United States. After the completion of his qualification John returned to South Africa and established the Music Academy of Gauteng in 1994.

The academy has become a centre for jazz excellence, with luminaries such as Malcolm Jiyane, Mthunzi Mvubu, Mpho Mabogoane, Nthabiseng Mokoena and Linda Tshabalala, to name a few. The centre has also made it a priority to focus on children from impoverished backgrounds by providing them with opportunities to pursue their dreams. One such example and products of this is the much celebrated Jiyane who was once a street kid. Mekoa has helped to identify the talents and contributed to the growth of careers of many South African jazz musicians.

The Music Academy of Gauteng’s excellent work has seen the establishment being recognised with the prestigious International Jazz Education Network Award for five consecutive years. Mekoa – a 2015 Silver Order of Ikhamanga recipient for his contribution to the development of jazz music – has also had two honorary doctorates from the University of Pretoria and the University of South Africa bestowed upon him.

He was also conferred with a Life Achievement Award by the Swedish Jazz Federation and further received numerous mayoral awards from the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. He has played a very important role in the establishment of the now called Standard Bank Youth Jazz Orchestra that takes place annually during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. He is also a former president of the South African Jazz Education Network.

Mekoa also sits and contributed immensely on the boards of two prominent organisations in South Africa; The SAMRO Endowment of the National Arts, and the UNISA Music Examination board.

Dingaan Khumalo together with ACT Trustee Jayesperi Moopen presented the award.

Presented by the Arts & Culture Trust and hosted by Sun International, the ACT Awards were supported by long-time partners SAMRO, DALRO, Media24 Books, Nedbank Arts Affinity, Distell Foundation, Creative Feel Magazine and Business and Arts South Africa. JTI came on board this year as sponsor of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Dance.

Other Lifetime Achievement Award Winners include: Alfred Hinkel for Dance, Caiphus Semenya for Music, Omar Badsha for Visual Art, Thembi Mtshali-Jones for Theatre and Don Mattera for Literature.

Each Lifetime Achievement Award winner receives R30 000 as a cash prize.

For more information about the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) please visit


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