BOOK REVIEW | Keorapetse Kgositsile & the Black Arts Movement


By Uhuru Portia Phalafala

A key study on writer and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile that presents a new approach to studying the radicalism of Africa and its diaspora, and makes a major contribution to the histories of Black lives, gender studies, jazz studies, politics, and creativity.

The cultural configurations of the Black Atlantic cannot be fully understood without recognising the significant presence of writers and artists from the African continent itself.

Among the most influential was South African poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile, or Bra Willie, as he was affectionately known. Yet, until now, there has been no full-length study of his work.

The importance of Tswana oral & aural traditions

Uhuru Portia Phalafala’s wide-ranging book reveals the foundational influence of Kgositsile’s mother and grandmother on his craft and unveils the importance of Tswana oral and aural traditions, indigenous knowledge systems, and cosmologies he carried with him into and after exile.

The book illuminates a southern African modernity that was strongly gendered and expressed robust anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, anti-apartheid, and civil rights struggles.

Using the original concept of ‘elsewhere’, the author maps the sources of Kgositsile’s transformative verse, which in turn generated ‘poetics of possibility’ for his contemporaries in the Black Arts and Black Power Movements and beyond – among them Maya Angelou, Larry Neal, Gwendolyn Brooks, Tom Dent, members of The Last Poets, Otabenga Jones & Associates, and rapper Earl Sweatshirt – who all looked to his work to model their identities, cultural movements and radical traditions.

About the author

Uhuru Portia Phalafala is a senior lecturer in the English department at Stellenbosch University, author of the poetry collection Mine Mine Mine and co-editor of Keorapetse Kgositsile: Collected Poems 1969-2018.

  • Publisher | Wits University Press |
  • ISBN | 9781776148929 |
  • Recommended Price | R330.00 |
  • Subject | Literature: History & Criticism |

For more information | Corina van der Spoel | +27 (0)11 717 8705/8700 mail me |



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here