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Christopher van Wyk: farewell to a South African literary icon

The death of the author, poet and activist who became a distinctive post-apartheid voice is a devastating cultural blow

Not long after the death of Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, South Africa has lost another literary icon. Poet, novelist, editor, storyteller and cultural activist, Christopher van Wyk, who lost his battle against cancer on 3 October 2014, was one of South Africas most endearing literary figures. While he never achieved the international fame or the literary accolades of his more celebrated compatriot, Van Wyk can perhaps claim to be more widely read within black South African communities, especially among children and teenagers.

Born in 1957 in Riverlea, the coloured township adjacent to Soweto, in the west of Johannesburg, Van Wyk shot to fame through his widely anthologised poem In Detention, which satirised the strange reasons given by the apartheid establishment for the deaths of political prisoners in John Vorster Square, the notorious security police headquarters in Johannesburg.

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