Monday, January 8, 2018

Keorapetse Kgositsile (1938 - 2018)





A minuscule tribute by O Bolaji

South Africa's greatest Black poets? One's mind automatically goes to Mongane Wally Serote, and Keorapetse Kgositsile, who has just died.


I have been lucky enough to meet both exalted bards over the years. Kgositsile epitomized poetry and was a warm, affable, eclectic  presence who graced poetic and literary occasions with elan.

Prof Kgositsile always exuded bonhomie despite his awesome credentials as international academic, wordsmith and author of several works distributed in hundreds of literary centres worldwide.  He would very warmly hold hands with much younger burgeoning poets, joking with them, showing them many of his published works in deprecating fashion.

His face always creased with smiles; evoking laughter and applause, Bra Willie was nevertheless a tough literary critic who would attack the works of the literary greats like Achebe and Ngugi. But of course in fairness to him, he was critical of his own works too. "One might find out that what one has written is a can of worms" he would say.


He was a well travelled, polished bard, highly respected globally.  I recollect Mr Malcolm Hacksley, former Director of NELM Grahamstown telling me some intriguing anecdotes about Bra Willie. The late Flaxman Qoopabe was also well enamoured with prof Kgositsile. His pungent criticism often upset much younger bards at literary occasions, but nevertheless they all warmed to him and admired him.


The late prof Kgositsile early in his career was something of a journalist; he went on to study at Columbia University in the USA, where he was influenced by Black poetry, with strong musical - jazz - elements integral to his poetry. He published over ten revered works on poetry, and was named as South African National Poet Laureate in 2006.


Books published by Keorapetse Kgositsile

The word is here: poetry from modern Africa

My name is Afrika

Spirits Unchained

For Melba

The present is a dangerous place to live

If I could sing: Selected poems

This way I salute you: Selected poems

When the Clouds clear

To the Bitter End

Approaches to Poetry Writing 

Places and Bloodstains: notes for Ipelang

5 comments:

Eric said...

Indeed Bra Willie belongs to the pantheon of the all-time greats of African poetry. His glittering legacy lives on

TM THIBA said...

Bra Willie remain one of the best poet Africa has ever produced. He collect many accolades in literature and contribute vastly to the growth of this industry. He is celebrated by the whole world because wherever he go or stayed has left the legacy that will last eternity. Great article by Pro Bolaji.

Leke Giwa said...

Alas, it seems that in recent times, we just keep on celebrating the demise of great African writers. We should just do all we can to keep their legacy alive.

Paul Lothane said...

At almost 80, I suppose one can say the great Bra Willie lived a fantastic life...a legendary figure. Another fine tribute by Mr Bolaji, who must be devastated with all this...especially Mr Qoopane's demise.

Raphael Mokoena said...



Another mind-numbing loss for African poetry and literature in general….but as has been indicated elsewhere here, it is also a celebration of a great talent which future generations must key into in learning about themselves, their history, struggles, and the verisimilitude of African poetry itself. RIP, Prof