Mongane Wally Serote is a South African poet and writer. Born in Sophiatown and schooled in Alexandra, Lesotho, and Soweto. He had links to a group known as the “township” or “Soweto” poets, and his poems often expressed themes of political activism, the development of black identity, and violent images of revolt and resistance. He was arrested by the apartheid government under the Terrorism Act in 1969 and spent nine months in solitary confinement, before being released without charge.
He studied in New York as a Fulbright Scholar, obtaining a Fine Arts degree at Columbia University in 1979 and then began a life in exile, working in Gaborone and later London for the African National Congress.
Mongane published his first collection of poems, Yakhal’Inkomo in 1972. This work was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize in 1973. A prolific write, his poem, Third World Express, was selected as one of ‘the 100 best’ to come out of Africa in 20th century. In 2012, he received the Golden Wreath Award; the first South African poet to earn this honour and the second African to do so after former Senegalese President Leopold Senghor.
He served as chair of the parliamentary select committee for Arts, Culture, Science & Technology from 1994 to 2002 and is the Executive Chair of the Freedom Park Trust and a Trustee on the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
Profiles of OMT Scholars