The conferral will place at the UJ’s newly refurbished auditorium at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Monday afternoon, the UJ said in a statement.
Serote had lectured at universities abroad and in South Africa and currently led the UJ’s postgraduate students in a project to document indigenous knowledge systems at the African Centre for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (ACEPS).
“Spending nine months in solitary confinement in an apartheid prison in 1969 and 18 years in exile, Prof Serote's commitment to ‘intervene and disrupt racism in all fields of human agency’ is evident in his widely-celebrated contribution to the literature and poetry of black identity and resistance,” UJ professor of philosophy and executive dean of the faculty of humanities Alex Broadbent said.
“Mongane Serote is a true African intellectual in the tradition of the African philosophic sage – a profoundly wise person. He is the embodiment of philosophy as the love of wisdom, in the context of both traditional and modern Africa.
“His extensive contributions to the promotion of authentic African cultural expression and his sought-after expertise on indigenous knowledge systems for re-building our society are based on his broad experiential knowledge, participant observation, decades of organisational involvement and service, and deep intellectual reflection,” Broadbent said.
Serote is one of South Africa’s best-known poets and novelists. Born in Sophiatown in 1944, he attended primary school in Alexandra township in Johannesburg and high school in Lesotho and Soweto.
Detained under the Terrorism Act in 1969 he was released nine months later without being charged. He worked in advertising and studied fine art at Columbia University, graduating with an MFA in 1977.
Serote moved to Botswana in 1979, where he co-founded the Medu Arts Ensemble, and to London in 1986, where he held a position on the ANC cultural desk. He returned to South Africa in the early 1990s.
His novel To Every Birth Its Blood (1981) deals with the 1976 Soweto uprising and its dramatic aftermath, and was met with critical acclaim.
Serote's collections of poetry are Yakhal’inkomo (1972; winner of the 1973 Ingrid Jonker Prize), Tsetlo (1974), No Baby Must Weep (1975), Behold Mama, Flowers (1978), The Night Keeps Winking (1982), A Tough Tale (1987), Third World Express (1992), Come and Hope with Me (1994), and Freedom Lament and Song (1997).
He also produced two collections of essays on South African culture and politics. His more recent works include the novels Gods of Our Time (1999), Scatter the Ashes and Go (2002), and Revelations (2011), as well as the long poem History Is the Home Address (2004).