Walter Chakela then artistic director of The Windybrow Theatre. Picture: Supplied
Walter Chakela then artistic director of The Windybrow Theatre. Picture: Supplied

Tributes pour in for playwright and poet Walter Chakela

By Staff Reporter Time of article published May 20, 2020

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Joburg City Theatres (JCT) send heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and followers of playwright, poet, and theatre director Walter Chakela.

The theatre genius passed away on Friday, May 15, following a long illness. Though the family has not disclosed the cause of death, it is alleged that Chakela suffered a stroke over five years ago and he had not been well since.

Tributes have been pouring in for the former chief executive officer and artistic director of the Windybrow Centre for the Arts, as the arts fraternity remembers and honours him for his immense contribution to the theatre industry.

Commenting on Chakela’s passing, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema, CEO of JCT, said:  “Walter Chakela has left an indelible impact on the South African theatre world. As the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Windybrow Centre in Hillbrow (1993 to 2004), he ensured that literary works from acclaimed writers such as Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, and others within South Africa and the African Diaspora were promoted. 

"His artistic programming, and commitment to the arts, ensured that thousands of South African schools kids experienced quality theatre and literature.”

Recalling her first meeting with Chakela in the early 1990s when she worked on the City of Joburg's 1994 edition of the legendary Arts Alive Festival which was held at the Windybrow Theatre, Roshnie Moonsammy, the International Festival curator and producer, said: “Walters’ warm, gentle, welcoming spirit and smile will remain a beautiful memory. It was thanks to Walter Chakela that we got to engage with Keorapetse Kgositsile, Amira Baraka, and other acclaimed black writers and their work.”

It is through alignment with the spirits of those South Africans who have contributed positively to the arts, like Chakela, that JCT continues to be a strong proponent of the performing arts and their invaluable contribution to society.  

Fellow poet and JCT board member Dr Wally Serote recalled: “47 years ago Walter Kefuoe Chakela started an organisation called Molopo Experimental Theatre Group, and by so doing started a whole career as a cultural worker, a cultural activist who became a Pan Africanist, and African Renaissance activist. May his legacy live on to inspire many more creatives.”

Watch the moving tribute by Dr Lance Nawa, the president of the National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA):

The details of Walter Chakela's funeral is yet to be confirmed.

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