It’s mourning period for South Africa and Africa’s literary circle as renowned author, poet and black art activist, Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile, also known as Bra Willie, has died at 79.
He died after undergoing surgery for circulatory problems at a hospital in South Africa, family spokesperson, Terry Fowler told News24.
Kgositsile was once married to Baleka Mbete, speaker of South Africa’s National Assembly. He was also the father of American rapper, Earl Sweatshirt. As part of the African National Congress liberation movement, he began his writing career in the 1960s while also working for Johannesburg’s anti-apartheid newspaper, New Age.
In 1962, as was common for nationalists then, Kgositsile went into exile in the United States where he eventually received a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia University and began writing extensively about jazz. He published his first poetry collection, Spirits Unchained in 1969. Two years later he founded the Black Arts Theatre in Harlem and published another collection titled, My Name Is Afrika.
He moved back to Africa in 1975, becoming a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Years later, he returned to post-apartheid South Africa, where he advised the Minister of Arts and Culture and was honoured with the South African Poet Laureate Prize in 2006.
After news of his death broke, many people paid homage to Kgositsile’s life and work on Twitter.
— Arts & Culture (@ArtsCultureSA) January 3, 2018
It is with great sadness that we have learnt of Prof. Keorapetse Kgositsile’s passing. He was with us just the other day at Abantu Book Festival & his event -which was his last ever- was one of those the audience wished would never end. RIP National Poet Laureate. #NoSerenityHere pic.twitter.com/nGNCt4v3Yu
— Abantu Book Festival (@Abantu_) January 3, 2018