RIP Keorapetse Kgositsile.
Tragedy has struck Earl Sweatshirt and his extended family today, with news that his father, well-known activist and South Africa’s National Poet Laureate, Keorapetse Kgositsile, has died. He was 79 years of age.
Though Kgositsile and his mother separated when he was eight years old, Earl (born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) is the son of two respected academic minds. According to the Johannesburg Review of Books, Kgositsile was born in 1938 in Johannesburg, beginning his writing career at the New Age, which was an anti-apartheid newspaper then edited by fellow political activist Ruth First.
Contributing poetry and news reporting to the publication, he went to become a prominent figure at the ANC, which led to 29 years spent in exile from his home country, both in the United States (where he met Earl's mother) and Tanzania. His list of academic ventures in America is long and distinguished, having studied at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania University, University of New Hampshire and Columbia University. It was during this time that he published his first two volumes of poetry, titled Spirits Unchained and My Name Is Afrika. He later became known for his readings in New York City jazz clubs.
Kgositsile went back to South Africa in 1990, earning the title of Poet Laureate from South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture in 2006. He used his new role to initiate many changes when it comes to arts and literature. In 2008, he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga, Silver, for "excellent achievements in the field of literature and using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world."
We extend our condolences to Earl and his family during this difficult time. May Keorapetse Kgositsile rest in peace.