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Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile. Image from HeraldLIVE.

To honour the country’s late National Poet Laureate, Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile, the government of South Africa has commenced a three-day “special official funeral.” The memorial began on 11 January and continued on 12 January, to end on 16 January. Kgositsile passed away on 3 January in Johannesburg, aged 79. President Jacob Zuma ordered that the national flag be flown at half-mast, while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was tasked with delivering the eulogy.

Born in 1938 in Johannesburg, Kgositsile launched his writing career at the anti-Apartheid newspaper New Age, publishing reports and poetry. During the 1960s-70s, he was a prominent member of the Arican National Congress (ANC). He then spent 29 years in exile in Tanzania and the U.S.A., where he studied at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania University, University of New Hampshire, and Columbia University, and published his poetry collections Spirits Unchained and My Name Is Afrika. Founder of the Black Arts Theatre in Harlem, Kgositsile returned to South Africa in 1990, and, in 2006, was made Poet Laureate by the Department of Arts and Culture. In 2008, he received the National Order of Ikhamanga, Silver, for his “excellent achievements in the field of literature and using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world.” Most recently, he appeared at the Abantu Book Festival in Soweto.

Here are details for the memorial, as reported by The Johannesburg Review of Books.

ANC John Nkadimeng Branch Memorial Service:

Date: Thursday, 11 January 2018
Time: 12—4 pm
Venue: Johannesburg City Hall

Official Memorial Service:

Date: Friday, 12 January 2018
Time: 2 pm
Venue: Market Theatre

Funeral Tribute:

Date: Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Venue: Marks Park
Time: 9 am

Burial:

Venue: West Park Cemetery

Luncheon:

Venue: Marks Park

Rest in peace, Bra Willie.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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