Mongane Wally Serote was born on 8 May, 1944 in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a South African poet and writer. He schooled in Alexandra, Lesotho, and Soweto. He first became involved in the Black Consciousness Movement when he was finishing high school in Soweto.He became involved in political resistance to the apartheid government by joining the African National Congress (ANC) and in 1969 was arrested and detained for several months without trial.
He subsequently spent years in exile, working in Botswana, and later London, England, for the ANC in their Arts and Culture Department, before eventually returning to South Africa in 1990.
Mongane’s presence in that town linked him 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 June 1969 and spent nine months in solitary confinement, before being released without charge. He went to study in New York City, obtaining a Fine Arts degree at Columbia University.
After contributing poems to various journals, in 1972 he published his first collection, Yakhal’Inkomo. It won the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize in 1973.
Wally was a Fulbright Scholar and received a fine arts degree from Columbia University in 1979. He was not able to return to South Africa and he began a life in exile, living in Gaborone, Botswana, where he was involved in the Medu Art Ensemble, and in London, where he relocated in 1986 and worked for the ANC’s Department of Arts and Culture.
He returned to South Africa in 1990, after the ANC was unbanned. In 1993, he won the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. In 2004, he received the Pablo Neruda award from the Chilean government.
Serote has served as chair of the parliamentary select committee for arts and culture, and was also the CEO of Freedom Park, a national heritage site in Pretoria opened in 2007. He has founded a few NGOs, iIKSSA Trust where he is the Chairperson, IARI which he is also the CEO. He sits on a few advisory boards in the country dealing with Arts, Culture, Indigenous Knowledge and African Renaissance issues.