Richard Poplak

Richard Poplak is an award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker. He has become one of the most widely read and controversial political journalists in South Africa, editing at large for the Daily Maverick. Poplak has reported from over 25 developing countries, for the Financial TimesAtlantic MonthlyThe Guardian, among others. He was recently part of a team that won the prestigious Global Shining Light award for investigative journalism.

Richard has worked as a freelance journalist and writer since 2005. His work has been anthologized numerous times, and he frequently appears on Al Jazeera, BBC, CBC, and elsewhere as a commentator on topics that range from world events to sport: he is considered a go-to voice on the burgeoning Sino-African relationship; on South African politics; and on international cycling. He is a former Rockefeller Fellow, and a recipient of the Bookmark Award for the best journalist in South Africa. He is also a contributor in the innovative global investigative journalist collective Deca Stories. 
As a member in the GuptaLeaks team, he helped break one of the biggest stories in South African media history. The journalistic consortium won the Taco Kuiper Investigative Journalism award, Vodacom Journalist of the Year, and was cited for a Nat Nkasa Bravery in Journalism award. In 2019, the team won the prestigious 2019 Global Shining Light award, the highest honour in investigative journalism. 

He has published five books: Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-era South Africa (Penguin Canada, 2007/Penguin International, 2007), The Sheikh’s Batmobile: in Pursuit of American Pop Culture in the Muslim World (Penguin Canada, 2009/Soft Skull Press, 2010), Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010), and an anthology of his Daily Maverick election coverage, Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg Press, 2014). His fifth book, Continental Shift: A Journey Through Africa’s Changing Fortunes, was released in Spring 2016 (Jonathan Ball/Portobello)

Before he became a journalist, Richard trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University (1992-1995) and has produced an directed numerous music videos, television commercials, and documentary films. He is the co-director of a documentary feature film on the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, called Influence, which is premiering in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020.

Photo by Daniel Hewett
  • I would read Poplak if he wrote about watching paint dry. Dark, funny, self-deprecating and poetic, Poplak is a punk Graham Greene. —The Globe and Mail
  • A heroic feat of research, analysis, and on-the-ground reportage . . . At the very least, The Sheikh’s Batmobile should shatter the Western stereotype of the Muslim world as repressive and stagnant. —Quill and Quire
  • In the riotous, fearless, and very funny tradition of Hunter S. Thompson and Jon Ronson, Richard Poplak takes us through the looking glass and into an upside down, funhouse mirror pop culture universe where Homer Simpson drinks juice out of a beer can, batmobiles are custom-designed in a desert lair and Islamic children spontaneously recreate the video for Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello.’ In the process, Poplak gives us a mantra that unites the West and the East, the secular and the sacred: ‘Fuck you, Shrek, you big green motherfucker.' —Nathan Rabin, Head Writer, The A.V Club, author, The Big Rewind and My Year of Flops
  • It may seem unbelievable, not to say wrong, that a comic memoir can emerge from South Africa’s white-power days. But after a reading of Richard Poplak’s breezy and brilliant Ja, No, Man, you’re more inclined to ask: what better place? No yes man could be this funny, or this wise. —John Allemang, The Globe and Mail
  • A clever young Canadian-South African, Richard Poplak, has written one of the finest, funniest and most tragic memoirs I have read in years, called Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa. It is a gem, all the pleasure and pain and ruthless observation concealed inside the gleaming jewel of the book. —Heather Mallick, Toronto Star
  • Poplak stitches together the insults and indignities - mundane, suburban, absurd, tragic - of apartheid in its horrible death throes with such skill, such honesty and above all, such drop-everything-and- laugh-out-loud humour that I found myself having to re-read whole passages just to see what they sounded like without my shrieks of laughter thrown in. Ja, No, Man is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to know what it was like to be there and anyone who hopes we never go there there again - in other words, a must-read for everyone. —Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight
  • Poplak’s expertly-researched and beautifully-written The Sheikh's Batmobile is one of the most important documents of the post-9/11 world. —The National Post
  • Whether dissecting Indonesian punk bands or the eternal wisdom of Magnum, P.I., Poplak is everything you want in a cultural interpreter—funny, frank and utterly incapable of spewing mass market pabulum. Poplak gets beyond the cheap, superficial observations lesser writers bring to his subject, revealing himself as a genuine thinker who delivers original insight and laughs in every chapter. —Chuck Thompson, author of Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer