Minister Nathi Mthethwa pays tribute to Prof Keorapetse "Bra Willie" Kgositsile
03 Jan 2018
Minister Nathi Mthethwa extends his heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of distinguished poet and stalwart of the liberation struggle, Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile. Bra Willie, as he was fondly called by the young and old, remained an inspiration to many in the political and literary landscape.
Born in 1938 in Johannesburg, he was one of the most vocalactivists in the African National Congress (ANC) in the turbulent period of the late 1950s. He was instructed by the leadership of the ANC to leave South Africa in 1961. He went to Tanzania and in 1962 he moved to the United States of America (USA). He worked for the ANC's Cultural Desk and the Department of Education during his years in exile.
He studied at the University of Columbia and became one of the leading cultural practitioners in the African-American literature and Culture. He was one of the most influential figures in bridging the gap between African and Black American culture.He had interactions with distinguished cultural practitioners including the likes of langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka and Gwendolyn Brooks. The famous group of activists, The Last Poets,was named after one of his poems.
He taught at a number of Universities around the world including in the USA, Botswana, Kenya, and on his return to South Africa, he was a visiting Professor at the University of Fort Hare. He published severalcollections of poetry,including Spirits Unchained,My Name is Afrika, If I Could Sing and This Way I Salute You. He worked for the Department of Arts and Culture as a Ministerial Advisor before his retirement in 2014.
He is the recipient of severalawards including the Presidential Order of lkhamanga in Silver. In 2006 he was awarded the status of National Poet Laureate. He was instrumental in the founding of the South African literary Awards and the Reprint of Classics project among others. The repatriation of the remains of Nat Nakasa, whom he had known personally, was one of the last projects he worked on before his retirement from the Department in 2014.
Despite his remarkable contribution to the liberation struggle and the cultural landscape, Prof Kgositsile remained a very humble person. He was able to straddle the social strata, relating to the young and old with ease.He was a major link between different generations of writers,yet he remained humble and unassuming in his character.
"The nation has lost a revolutionary mind and a major asset in our cultural landscape. His incisive mind and humble personality will be sorely missed," said the Minister of Arts and Culture,Nathi Mthethwa.
Department of Arts and Culture