Events planned to honour the dynamic Keorapetse Kgositsile

Monday, January 8, 2018

Several events have been planned to celebrate and honour the late poet laureate and icon, Professor William Keorapetse Kgositsile.

Bra Willie (79), as he was affectionately known, passed away on Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

The renowned veteran activist and a giant of the liberation struggle was inaugurated as South Africa's second National Poet Laureate in 2006. He was also a recipient of the National Order of Ikhamanga for his contribution to the field of literature.

President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Official Funeral for him, which is for distinguished persons specifically designated by the President of the Republic.

Speaking to the media on Monday about the funeral arrangements, the special funeral committee assured that the national icon will be accorded a fitting send-off that will be accommodative of his dynamic personality.

The committee comprises family representatives, the ANC in Gauteng, government representatives from the Departments of Arts and Culture, Office of the Premier in Gauteng, and artists who worked closely with Kgositsile.

Committee spokesperson Mandla Langa announced that every day between 18:00 and 19:00, they will to hold sessions to celebrate the life of Kgositsile at the family home in Killarney.

Condolence books will be available from tomorrow at the family homes both in Killarney and Diepkloof.

Langa said further arrangements will be made for the message book to be available at the Market Theatre in Newtown and at the City Hall during the memorial services on the 11th and 12th of January respectively.

“We are aware of the various events that are organised to celebrate the life of this stalwart in other parts of the country and the world over. We encourage all those concerned to continue celebrating the life of this icon in a dignified manner befitting an icon of his stature,” said Langa.

His death has sent shockwaves into the arts fraternity, with activists and organisations, civil society and academia locally and across the globe sending condolences and celebrating his life.

On Saturday, a memorial event was held at the MLA in New York which saw tributes by various activists who either knew Kgositsile personally or have been touched by his life.

In true Kgositsile form, many of the commemorative events include the reading of poetry, jazz music and reflections on society.

Local commemorative events leading up to the funeral will include:

  • 10 January 2018 - the John Nkadimeng Branch will hold a memorial service at Houghton Primary School at 5.30pm.
  • The Official Memorial Service will be held on 11 January 2018 at the Johannesburg City Hall from 12pm – 4pm.
  • 12 January 2018 – Memorial service at Market Theatre in Newton, 12pm.

Langa said all these events, including the funeral, are open to the public.

Funeral details

Kgositsile’s funeral will be held on 16 January. The funeral will start at home in Diepkloof at 7am.

The funeral service will be held at Marks Park from 9am and will then proceed to West Park Cemetery for the burial.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy at the funeral.

President Zuma has ordered that the National Flag be flown at half-mast at every flag station in the country on the day of the funeral.

Those who knew Kgositsile personally have described him as a soft-spoken person, who always had a smile on his face. He exuded gentleness and touched the lives of many through his poetry and political activism.

An ANC member, Kgositsile went into exile in 1961 and settled in Tanzania for a year before moving to the United States where he studied worked and published poetry for over a decade.

In his three decades of exile, Kgositsile continued to fight injustices through his poetry, teachings and publications.

He lived in several countries including the US, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya.

Upon his return to South Africa following the jettisoning of the apartheid regime in 1994, Kgositsile worked with several academic and government institutions. In his lifetime, he mentored countless cultural practitioners, academics and political activists. –

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