Tag Archives: In Detention

SA Literary Flame Extinguished – R.I.P. Chris van Wyk

While we at Word N Sound celebrate our 4th Annual International Youth Poetry Festival we take this time to pause and pass our condolences to the Family, Friends and Fans of Chris van Wyk.

Chris van Wyk crp edt

A raging Inferno on the South African Literary Landscape uncle Chris van Wyk has passed on. His Legacy lives on in his published and unpublished works but I am sure he would say the piece of work he is most proud of is his life! His marriage to his Highschool sweetheart, Aunty Cathy, and the two sons they raised together.

Uncle Chris’ first published work was a collection of his poetry at the age of 22. This collection introduced the world to one of the most gifted and masterful storytellers of our age.

As a young man I first experienced and fell in love with Uncle Chris through his most famous poem ‘In Detention’ a poem based on the reasons advanced by the Apartheid Regime for the deaths of prisoners while in police custody at the infamous John Voster Square [now known as Johannesburg Central Prison] in the Johannesburg CBD.

In Detention - Chris van Wyk


It is a poem that feels like it wrote itself. It is a simple poem. A deeply haunting poem.  Knowing only a little bit about how poems are made, I assume this is a poem which haunted Uncle Chris until it was put to paper and then continued to haunt him as it still does its readers today.

From poetry and short stories to editing Staffrider and publishing children’s stories uncle Chris really came into his own when he started writing memoirs. His own for me was the most gripping as it spoke to me so intimately about the community in which I had spent my formative years. The years before I too would take pen to paper to make sense of my world through the written word. He spoke of people I knew, or knew of and of families I had encountered. This was the first time I truly  experienced my people in literature.

The flame which was Chris van Wyk is no more but during his lifetime he has been able to pass on the light. As his mortal remains are prepared for his burial over the next few days we will mourn his passing deeply. We will turn to his words to find solace and remember him. We may ready some of his work to our children or introduce a new generation of South Africans to his work and in doing so the embers he left behind in the form of well crafted words will spark a new flame and so His Legacy will live on.

In memory of Chris_001

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