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Tue, 09.08.2009

Willie Kgositsile, Educator, and Writer born

*Willie Kgositsile was born on this date in 1938. He was a Black South African poet, educator, and activist.

From South Africa, Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile taught for many years at the University of Dar es Salaam, the University of Nairobi, and the University of Gaborone. He left home in 1961 as one of the first young African National Congress (ANC) members instructed to lead their liberation movement.  He was a founding member of the ANC Department of Education as their Arts and Culture department. The recipient of many poetry awards, he has also studied and taught Literature and Creative Writing at several universities in the United States.

Kgositsile’s poetry ranges from clearly political and public to lyrical and confessional. Among his publications is a book on teaching the craft of poetry. A strong part of his work is recognizing and celebrating his influences and friendships with other artists and his deep love of blues and jazz. His poetry scintillates and vibrates with quotations from songs, references to music, and musicians, including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Gloria Bosman, Johnny Dyani, Hugh Masekela and Pharaoh Sanders, and more.

In including jazz references, Kgositsile followed a jazz practice of quoting from one song while improvising on another. Extra-textual references abound in his art and are included with some confidence that the audience is familiar with them.  Kgositsile’s collection If I Could Sing offers recognizes music as the purest of art forms. The title carries a wistful sense of a yearning to be a musician. This, if true, is ironic since one of the most notable characteristics of his verse is its subtle musicality. A short sample from one of the poems, ‘Santamaria’ (from the collection This Way I Salute You), demonstrates this.

The recipient of many poetry awards, Kgositsile has also studied and taught Literature and Creative Writing at several universities in the United States and in Africa.  In 2008, Kgositsile was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga Silver (OIS) "For excellent achievements in the field of literature and for using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world.

After a short illness, Willie Kgositsile died aged 79 on January 3, 2018, at Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital.

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