Keorapetse Kgositsile, a South African poet laureate and political activist in the country’s independence struggle — as well as father to rapper Earl Sweatshirt —has died, according to local outlets.
Kgositsile died Wednesday in Johannesburg after a brief illness following surgery for circulatory problems, according to News 24. He leaves behind his wife, and seven children, including Earl Sweatshirt, formerly of Odd Future.
He was 79.
“Today our country mourns the sad passing of one of the giants of our liberation struggle who was renowned for his accomplishment as well in the education, arts and culture sectors,” South African president Jacob Zuma said in a statement. “He was highly regarded even beyond the borders of our country and was a celebrated arts intellectual in the continent. We extend our deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace.”
A prominent member of the African National Congress during the height of the struggle, Bra Willie as he was affectionately called, moved to the U.S. where he earned his MFA in poetry at Columbia University and published his first poetry collection in 1969.
Earl Sweatshirt has spoken about his strained relationship with his father in his music. Kgositsile also spoke about his son’s growing fame in a 2011 New Yorker interview:
“When he feels that he’s got something to share with me, he’ll do that,” Kgositsile said, acknowledging he had yet to listen to his son’s music. “And until then I will not impose myself on him just because the world talks of him.”
But he remained forever proud of his son: “He read even before he started school,” Kgositsile said of him.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.