Celebrating the legacy of a poetry giant

Issued by North West University
North-West, Mar 12, 2019

The North-West University (NWU), in conjunction with the North West provincial Department of Culture, Arts and Traditional Affairs (CATA), recently hosted a memorial lecture to celebrate the legacy of Prof Keorapetse "Bra Willie" Kgosietsile, a South African poet laureate, political activist and academic.

The event took place on 6 March 2019 at the NWU's campus in Mahikeng.

Dr Mandla Langa, a South African poet, short story writer, novelist and cultural activist, was the keynote speaker.

According to Dr Langa, Prof Kgosietsile embodied the debates of ancient scholars and philosophers like Plato and Socrates, and poets such as Phaedrus, wrangling about the role of the written word versus dialogue or speech.

"I declare poets like Prof Kgosietsile the interpreters of the unspoken and sometimes unsayable energies that culminate in striving towards the creation of a better world," said Dr Langa.

"I believe the saying: 'One does not choose to become a poet; poetry chooses you' to be true of Prof Kgosietsile. The chosen few who are fated to express the unutterable and bring to light those codes long thought unbreakable, should be celebrated and supported."

Various panel discussions facilitated by renowned writers such as Walter Chakela, Dr Leloba Molema, Dr Lebogang Nawa, Prof Shole Shole and Sabata Mokaealso also took place. These discussions included topics such as "Kgosietsile poetry of the '70s in South Africa"; "Kgosietsile and the poetry of exile: Botswana and Africa"; and "Kgosietsile and poetry of the African Diaspora".

Prof Pamela Maseko, executive dean of the Faculty of Humanities, said the university encourages meaningful relations with communities to stimulate the production of new forms of knowledge.

"Our classrooms, in the case of English and Africa literature in which Prof Kgosietsile distinguished himself, should not be dominated by Shakespeare, Milton, John Donne and the likes when we have our own literary greats like Prof Kgosietsile," she said.

Prof Kgosietsile, who passed away on 3 January 2018, was considered one of South Africa's most distinctive poetic voices since the l960s; our South Africa's National Poet Laureate.

As one of South Africa's most widely published poets, Bra Willie's work has been translated into many languages. He was the recipient of a number of literary awards, including the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize; the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award; the Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Poetry Award; and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize. In 2008 he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga: Silver (OIS).