Dennis Brutus

Picture of Dennis Brutus

Dennis Brutus

DENNIS VINCENT BRUTUS - (b 28-11-1924)  was born in what is now Harare, Zimbabwe to South African parents. He was educated in South Africa and attended the university of Fort Hare where he obtained a B.A. with Distinction, and the university of Witwatersrand.  He taught English and Afrikaans in schools for 14 years.

As an activist against apartheid he was outspoken, especially in the field of sport during the 1950\'s and 1960\'s when he was President of SANROC (South Africa Non-racial Olympic Committee) His outspokenness resulted in two things:

1. The exclusion of SA  from international sports.
2.  His being banned and later arrested.

After escaping while on bail he was re-arrested, but when he once again attempted to escape he was shot in the back. Dennis Brutus was then sentenced to 18 months hard labour on Robben Island, where he served his time in the same section with  Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu,  & GovanMbeki.

After his release he was categorised as a "non-person" meaning he was banned from teaching, writing, publishing, attending both social or political meetings, or from pursuing his then studies in law at the university of Witwatersrand.

He left South Africa in 1966 and for a while made his home in England before moving to America, where he taught at the university of Denver. In 1971 he became Professor of African Literature at the Northwestern university in Evanston Illinois. He is currently professor emeritus at the unversity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

While in prison his first collection of poems was published in Nigeria by the Mbari Press. The collection was entitled "Sirens, Knuckles & Boots" (1962). This book received the Mbari Poetry Prize in 1962, but he turned the award down in protest against the fact that it was only open to black poets.

Although his main subject matter is the devastation and realities of oppression and the need to resist it, his tone remains lyrical, meditative and he does not succumb to self-pity or employ the use of propaganda in his work. His manner of mixing radical and traditional poetry is striking in its originality.

Sadly because he and his work remained banned in SA for so long he was never included in school or private anthologies.

He was "officially unbanned" in 1990 and began to revisit SA. He remains to a large degree an "unsung hero" at home, even though he is without a doubt one of SA\'s most important poets. His most memorable poems are those that are about/relate to his own life experiences as an opponent and a victim of apartheid.

He still has a deep concern and remains actively involved in the struggles of human and cultural rights. His current interests lie in African Literature, African Politics, Africa in the new Global order and Poetry and creative writing.



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