100 World Class South Africans: Wally Serote

2013-05-27 12:00

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The national poet

‘A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, take sides … shape the world and stop it going to sleep.’

These words by Salman Rushdie describe Mongane Wally Serote’s life’s work.

As one of the famed ‘Soweto Poets’ Serote played his part for freedom by telling stories of revolt and resistance and the rise of the black identity.

He has also penned insightful novels, including Revelations and most recently Rumours.

His contribution to art and the political landscape has resulted in many accolades – the Noma Award for Writing in Africa in 1993, a Pablo Neruda award from Chile in 2004, and he was the second African to receive the Golden Wreath for his contribution to poetry in 2011.

His mighty imagination was the ideal choice to conceptualise Freedom Park, a national monument to healing and liberation described as perhaps his greatest work of poetry – his powerful ideas brought to profound life in concrete and water.

Last year, at Stellenbosch University’s Woordfees, he declared: ‘Writers still have a mission to communicate across barriers – even if apartheid is not the main motivation any longer.’

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