Johnson, Henri W.
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Description of Artwork Breyten Breytenbach is an Afrikaans poet, writer, painter and activist. He was born in 1939 in Bonnievale, Western Cape. As a student at the University of Cape Town, he became aware of the racist regulation of human lives under the apartheid state, and also came into contact with others who shared his liberal thoughts. He was part of a group of Afrikaans poets and writers called the Sestigers, who wanted to elevate the Afrikaans language while confronting the apartheid state. His poetry was thus often political – his words are his form of protest. His poetry changed the face of Afrikaans literature. In 1960 he left South Africa and settled in Paris in 1962 with his Vietnamese wife, Yolande Ngo Thi Hoang Lien. In 1965 his wife was refused a visa to visit South Africa. Interracial relationships were against the law, but his marriage to Yolande was a small beacon of hope. In 1975 he returned to South Africa with a false passport and was arrested for allegedly starting a white wing of the African National Congress. He pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for nine years. During this time, he wrote five volumes of poetry and English prose. His book, The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist, was an exposé of life in an apartheid-era prison and the treatment of prisoners. Breytenbach is also known for his paintings, many of which portray surreal animal and human figures, often in captivity.
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