Book Title: My Name is Africa (first published in 1971)
Author: Keorapetse Kgosiitsile
Reviewed by: Keletso Thobega
Kgosiitsile has released many works over the years but this is his most influential offering that has set him apart and earned him recognition and appreciation for his literary talent.
Released at the peak of apartheid, it made an impression among many and went on to create a reputation for him as one of the most relevant poets of the era. This anthology boasts many poems dedicated to his loved ones, and touches on his hopes and dreams for his homeland.
His writing style is simple but quite in-depth, insightful and virtuous. His poems are frank and precise. He paints an idealistic picture of a united Africa free from slavery, oppression and other forms of human abuse and corruption.
Kgosiitsile is a lively writer who incorporates the use of street languages such as ‘Fanagalo’ to add literary flair to his writings. He writes as if he is speaking to his audience. The best poem from the anthology is undoubtedly Mayibuye Afrika, which is also quite popular. It reads:
I remember the taste of desire,
Crushed like the dream of ghetto orphans,
Rendered speechless by the smell of obscene emasculation,
But this morning the sun wakes up ,
With the sharp-edge birth of retrieved root nimble,
As a dream translated memory rides paste and future alike…’
****Kgosiitsile made his spiritual transition a fortnight ago aged 79 and was given a State funeral by the South African government. He was a founding member of the African National Congress Department of Education and Department of Arts and Culture.
He left SA in 1961 and lived in the US as a student then teacher at various Universities until 1975. His first poetry collection, Spirits Unchained, was published in 1969. In 1971, he published another collection My Name is Afrika.
He returned to Africa in 1975, lecturing in English at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. After the end of Apartheid in 1990 he returned to South Africa. He published When the Clouds Clear in 1990. He has also written Approaches to Poetry Writing (1994) and edited The Word is Here: Poetry from Modern Africa (1973). Additional information: literature/british council