Small’s poetry and plays focused on the poverty‚ alienation and deprivation of black South Africans under the apartheid regime.
He used Afrikaans – widely regarded as the language of oppression – for a message of liberation‚ and often wrote in the Kaaps dialect.
Small authored 12 books‚ among which the plays Kanna‚ hy kô hystoe – with its interplay between formal and dialectic Afrikaans – Krismis van Map Jacobs and Joanie Galant-hulle are the most acclaimed.
For many years‚ controversy reigned in Afrikaans literary circles because it was felt Small did not get the recognition he deserved.
In 2009‚ the South African Academy for the Arts and Sciences awarded him a medal upon the celebration of its centenary‚ and in 2012 he won the biggest Afrikaans literary award of all‚ the Hertzog Prize.
Small was a renowned academic‚ educating many students first as a philosophy lecturer and then as a professor of social work at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville.
In his later years the soft-spoken Small was sickly and became a social hermit‚ though in the last four years of his life he made a few public appearances‚ mostly in Cape Town‚ Stellenbosch and Wellington.
The news of his death on Saturday was met with shock and sadness. Writer and journalist Jason Lloyd said it was a terrible day for black Afrikaans literature in particular‚ while radio talk show host Heindrich Wyngaard said Afrikaans had lost its greatest activist for reconciliation between white and Coloured users of the language.
UWC academic Steward van Wyk described Small as the conscience of the Afrikaans community.
Small is survived by his wife‚ Rosalie‚ and four children‚ two from a previous marriage.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.