Strug­gle icon, poet, lau­re­ate cel­e­brated

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - BONGANI NKOSI bongani.nkosi@inl.co.za

RENOWNED poet lau­re­ate Pro­fes­sor Ke­o­rapetse Kgosit­sile has been lauded for his con­tri­bu­tion to the lib­er­a­tion Strug­gle by speak­ing truth to power through his writ­ing prow­ess.

Hundreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing a num­ber of lib­er­a­tion he­roes, aca­demics and famed artists, de­scended on the Johannesburg City Hall yes­ter­day to pay trib­ute to Kgosit­sile.

Strug­gle stal­warts at­tend­ing his me­mo­rial ser­vice in­cluded Pallo Jor­dan, Ron­nie Kas­rils, Aziz Pa­had, Es­sop Pa­had, Mon­gane Wally Serote and Kgosit­sile’s for­mer wife Baleka Mbete.

Pop­u­larly known as Bra Wil­lie, Kgosit­sile, 79, died at Johannesburg’s Mil­park Hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a short ill­ness.

In ad­di­tion to sev­eral speeches, song and po­etry dom­i­nated his me­mo­rial ser­vice. Lebo Mashile, Natalia Mole­batsi and Khosi Xaba were some of the poets who de­liv­ered their work at the cer­e­mony.

Kgosit­sile was also a pro­fes­sor and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist. He skipped the then-apartheid South Africa in 1961 un­der the in­struc­tion of the ANC, a party he had joined.

First go­ing to Tan­za­nia, Kgosit­sile reached the US in 1962, and stud­ied at Lin­coln Univer­sity, Penn­syl­va­nia Univer­sity, Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire and Columbia Univer­sity.

He went on to teach lit­er­a­ture at sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties in the US, Kenya, Botswana and South Africa.

His most in­flu­en­tial col­lec­tion of po­etry, My Name is Afrika, was pub­lished in 1971.

Kgosit­sile was named South Africa’s National Poet Lau­re­ate in 1996. He later went on to re­ceive the National Or­der of Ikhamanga for his con­tri­bu­tion to lit­er­a­ture.

Univer­sity of Johannesburg (UJ) vice-chan­cel­lor Tshilidzi Mar­wala re­called that he first met Kgosit­sile in 1989 – “not phys­i­cally”, but through one of his po­ems that was pre­scribed at his high school in Venda.

UJ will re­name one of its halls in hon­our of the de­parted poet and scholar, Mar­wala told the me­mo­rial ser­vice.

“The pro­fes­sor was not a self­ish man. He spent a great deal of time shar­ing ideas with our stu­dents.”

Small in stature, Kgosit­sile was no or­di­nary man: “Pro­fes­sor Kgosit­sile was an ex­tra­or­di­nary man who pur­sued ideas,” Mar­wala said. “His pas­sion for the spo­ken and writ­ten word was un­par­al­leled.”

“Kgosit­sile fought for free­dom for all, and most im­por­tantly free­dom for writ­ers to ex­press them­selves with­out fear,” said ANC vet­eran Trevor Fowler. “We’re much richer for him hav­ing touched our lives.”

Dr Se­biletso MokoneMata­bane, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Sen­tech, said she was amazed at how Kgosit­sile re­mained well versed in his mother tongue al­though he had been abroad for decades.

Mokone-Mata­bane also re­mem­bered Kgosit­sile as a wel­com­ing scholar.

Kgosit­sile will be buried on Tues­day in Johannesburg, the city he was born in.

He is sur­vived by his wife Baby Dor­cas Kgosit­sile, seven chil­dren and a num­ber of grand­chil­dren.

@Bon­ganiNkosi87

Kgosit­sile was an ex­tra­or­di­nary man

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