Meet south african famous poets

Antjie Krog


Photo sourced from ranker.com

Photo sourced from ranker.com

Born into an Afrikaner family of writers in Kroonstad, Orange Free State, South Africa, she grew up on a farm, attending primary and secondary school in the area.

In 1970, at the height of John Vorster’s apartheid years, she penned an anti-apartheid poem for her school magazine: Gee vir my ‘n land waar swart en wit hand aan hand, vrede en liefde kan bring in my mooi land (Give me a land where black and white hand in hand, Can bring peace and love to my beautiful land) scandalising her conservative Afrikaans-speaking community and bringing the attention of the national media to her parents’ doorstep:

In 1973 she earned a BA (Hons mwa) degree in English from the University of the Orange Free State, and an MA in Afrikaans from the University of Pretoria in 1976.

With a teaching diploma from the University of South Africa (UNISA) she would lecture at a segregated teacher’s training college for black South Africans.

Her achievements as a poet

Described by her contemporary Joan Hambidge, as the Pablo Neruda of Afrikaans, Krog would publish her first book of verse, Dogter van Jefta (Daughter of Jephta) at the age of seventeen.Within the next two years she published a second collection titled: Januarie-suite (January Suite).

Since then she has published several further volumes, one in English. Much of her poetry deals with love, apartheid, the role of women, and the politics of gender. Her work has been translated into English, Dutch and several other languages.

Her achievements as a journalist

Later, Krog would edit the now-defunct, independent Afrikaans journal Die Suid-Afrikaan, co-founded by Hermann Giliomee in 1984.

On the strength of her work there, she was invited to join the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) by Pippa Green, head of radio news. For two years, reporting as Antjie Samuel, she contributed to the radio programme AM Live with items on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Of the commission she said:

If its interest is linked only to amnesty and compensation, then it will have chosen not truth, but justice. If it sees truth as the widest possible compilation of people’s perceptions, stories, myths and experiences, it will have chosen to restore memory and foster a new humanity, and perhaps that is justice in its deepest sense.

When the TRC hearings were completed in 1997, Krog took up the post of Parliamentary Editor at SABC.

Breyten Breytenbach

Breyten BreytenbachBreyten Breytenbach was born in Bonnievale, Western Cape, approximately 180 km from Cape Town and 100 km from the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas. He studied fine arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town and became a committed opponent of the policy of apartheid. He left South Africa for Paris in the early 1960s. When he married a French woman of Vietnamese ancestry, Yolande, he was not allowed to return

On an illegal trip to South Africa in 1975 he was arrested and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for high treason: his work The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist describes aspects of his imprisonment.

In June 1977 Breytenbach was brought to court by the South African Government on a new series of terrorism charges.

It was alleged that he had planned a Russian submarine attack on the prison centre at Robben Island through the Okhela Organisation, which he had allegedly founded as a resistance group fighting apartheid in exile.

After a successful defense, the judge found a total lack of evidence for the very existence of Okhela – which had been the main charge at the first trial – and so he was found not guilty on all serious charges.

He was found guilty only on the technical counts of having smuggled out letters and poems, for which a nominal fine of some fifty dollars was imposed.

Released in 1982 as a result of massive international intervention, he returned to Paris and obtained French citizenship.

He became a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town in the Graduate School of Humanities in January 2000 and is also involved with the Gorée Institute in Dakar (Senegal) and with New York University, where he teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program.

Breytenbach’s work includes numerous volumes of novels, poetry and essays, many of which are in Afrikaans. Many have been translated from Afrikaans to English, and many were originally published in English. He is also known for his works of pictorial arts. Exhibitions of his paintings and prints were shown in numerous cities around the world including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, Brussels, Edinburgh and New York City.

Breytenbach was described as the only example of a “nice South African” in the song I’ve Never Met A Nice South African. The song was written by John Lloyd for the satirical British TV series Spitting Image.

He is the brother of Jan Breytenbach, founder of the South African Special Forces, and Cloete Breytenbach, a widely published war correspondent. He is the father of the French journalist Daphnee Breytenbach.

David Wright

David WrightWright was born in Johannesburg, South Africa 23 February 1920 of normal hearing. When he was 7 years old he contracted scarlet fever and was deafened as a result of the disease.

He emigrated to England at the age of 14, where he was enrolled in the Northampton School for the Deaf. He studied at Oriel College, Oxford, and graduated in 1942.

His first work, a poem entitled Eton Hall, was published in 1942–43 in the journal Oxford Poetry.

He became a freelance writer in 1947 after working on the Sunday Times newspaper for five years. With John Heath-Stubbs he edited the Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse.

He edited the literary magazine Nimbus from 1955 to 1956, during which time he published 19 poems, sent to him by Patrick Swift, by Patrick Kavanagh, which proved to be the turing point in Kavanagh’s career.

He co-founded the quarterly literary review X magazine which he co-edited from 1959 to 1962. His work includes three books about Portugal written with Patrick Swift, his co-founder and co-editor of X. He translated The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf.

He penned an autobiography in 1969, and a biography of fellow South African poet Roy Campbell in 1961. Wright also edited a number of publications throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He held the Gregory Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Leeds (1965–67).

Wright was not reticent about his deafness, and his autobiography, Deafness: A Personal Account (1969), is often used to give hearing people an insight into an experience they might not easily imagine.

In 1951, he married Philippa (“Pippa”) Reid (d. 1985); and Oonagh Swift in 1987. Wright lived in Braithwaite, just outside Keswick, in the Lake District of England, and became good friends with Norman Nicholson, a fellow poet, and his wife, often visiting each other.

Wright died of cancer in Waldron, East Sussex, August 28, 1994.

Keorapetse William Kgositsile

Keorapetse KgositsileKgositsile, also known as “Bra Willie” (born September19, 1938), is a South African poet and political activist. An influential member of the African National Congress in the 1960s and 1970s, he was inaugurated as South Africa’s National Poet Laureate in 2006.

Kgositsile lived in exile in the United States from 1962 until 1975, the peak of his literary career. He made extensive study of African-American literature and culture, becoming particularly interested in jazz.

During the 1970s he was a central figure among African-American poets, encouraging interest in Africa as well as the practice of poetry as a performance art; he was well known for his readings in New York City jazz clubs.

Kgositsile was one of the first to bridge the gap between African poetry and Black poetry in the United States, and thus one of the first and most significant poets in the Pan-African movement. He is the father of hip-hop recording artist Earl Sweatshirt, from the prominent American hip-hop group Odd Future.

Mzwakhe Mbuli

Mzwaki Mbuli 082Mbuli, a devout former Deacon at Apostolic Faith Mission Church in Naledi Soweto South Africa, known as “The People’s Poet, Tall man, Mbulism”, is a popular poet and mbaqanga singer in South Africa.

He was born in Sophiatown in 1958, but his family was forced to move to Soweto when the government bulldozed his home town.

His works include a book of poems, Before Dawn (1989), and albums Change is Pain (1986), Unbroken Spirit (1989), Resistance and Defence (1992), and Africa(1993). His poems are mainly in English but draw on his native Zulu as well as traditional praise poetry and rap.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *