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4 South African Black Poets To Celebrate World Poetry Day

Mar 21, 2021 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho

Every March 21st is World Poetry Day. It is a day to encourage people to read, write, teach, and publish poetry, and to recognize the great cultural contribution poetry makes to human society.

In celebrating World Poetry Day, we highlight four South African poets whose work speaks to the many issues of not only the country but the continent at large.

Lebogang Mashile

Born February 7, 1979, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Lebogang Mashile is a South African actress, writer, and performance poet. Mashile returned to South Africa in the mid-1990s and began to study law and international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand. However, she became more interested in the arts and she founded the poetry group Feela Sistah. Mashile appeared in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda and has performed in a number of theatre productions. In 2005, she published her first poetry collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, for which Mashile received the Noma Award in 2006. In 2008, Mashile published her second collection, Flying Above the Sky.


Keorapetse William Kgositsile

Popularly known as Bra Willie, Keorapetse William Kgositsile was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 19, 1938, and was a Tswana poet, journalist, and political activist. Kgositsile lived in exile in the United States from 1962 until 1975, the peak of his literary career. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University. He then published his first collection of poems, Spirits Unchained. It was well received and he was awarded the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Award. In 1971, Kgositsile published his most influential collection, My Name is Afrika, which established him as a leading African poet. Kgositsile wrote extensively about the American jazz scene. He also founded the Black Arts Theatre in Harlem. He was inaugurated as South Africa's National Poet Laureate in 2006, and was later a recipient of the 2008 National Order of Ikhamanga for his contribution to the field of literature. Kgositsile passed away on January, 3rd, 2018 in Johannesburg.


Botlhale Boikanyo

Botlhale Boikanyo is a young South African poet and singer. She first came into the limelight when she won South Africa's Got Talent grand prize in 2012 at just eleven years old. At the age of thirteen, she performed her poems at the Legacy of Hope Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital campaign inauguration in New York. Her performance was then linked with International Mandela Day. Young Boikanyo’s message led her to the recording of Africa my Pride, a spoken word piece, which was turned into music by Malambule from Native Rhythms Productions. In 2013, she was nominated for the South African Music Award for Best Traditional Music Album (SAMA), Best Praise Singer, and Best Poet. She eventually won the award of the Best Praise Singer. 


Thabiso Mohare

Thabiso ‘Afurakan’ Mohare is one of the pioneers of the modern spoken word scene in South Africa. His writing and performance style has caught the attention of many slam poets and writers with its rhythm and provocative nature. Mohare is the CEO and co-founder of the Word N Sound Live Literature Company, a groundbreaking poetry development project that has been running in Johannesburg since 2010. The Broken Men Chapbook is Mohare’s first collection of poetry.



South African History Online

Poetry Africa UKZN

Botlhale Boikanyo

Poetry Africa

 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.  

She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.