popular

South Africans Honor the Life and Work of Poet Laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile

There's been an outpouring of love and recognition following the death of South African poet laureate and anti-apartheid Keorapetse Kgositsile, who passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 79.

The celebrated poet and father of rapper Earl Sweatshirt, was born in Johannesburg in 1938. He began his career working as a journalist before taking on a career as a political activist with the African National Congress. He lived in exile in the Untied states between 1962 and 1975—It was during this time that his exemplary literary career burgeoned. He became poet laureate in 2006.


Kgositsile, influenced artists, activists and fellow writers alike, most notably The Last Poets—considered the grandfathers of hip hop—who spoke about how he was an inspiration for their name in an interview with The Guardian last year. It's no secret that his talent for wordplay, was inherited by his son, hip hop artist Earl Sweatshirt, though the two shared a complicated relationship.

Earl has rapped about his father's absence on tracks like "Off Top" and "Grown Ups." In a 2011 interview with The New Yorker, Kgositsile admitted that he had never listened to his son's music, "When he feels that he's got something to share with me, he'll do that," he said. "And until then I will not impose myself on him just because the world talks of him."

The writer did express his feelings for his son, in perhaps, the way he knew best: through his writing, particularly in the poem Random Notes For My Son.

Kgositsile's death is a major loss to the black literary world, many South Africans and followers alike, have taken to social media to pay their respects to the poet, share personal accounts of their time with him, and pay homage to his contributions, not only to the literary community, but also to the South African freedom struggle, and even the founding of hip hop music.