He studied fine arts at the University of Cape Town and became a committed opponent of the policy of apartheid. He left South Africa for Paris in the early 1960s. When he married a French woman of Vietnamese ancestry, he was not allowed to return: The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and The Immorality Act (1950) made it a criminal offence for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race in the then apartheid South Africa.

In France he was a founder member of Okhela, a resistance group fighting apartheid in exile. On an illegal trip to South Africa in 1975 he was betrayed, arrested and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for high treason: his work The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist describes aspects of his imprisonment. Released in 1982 as a result of massive international intervention he returned to Paris and obtained French citizenship.

He currently divides his time between Europe, Africa, and the United States. He joined the University of Cape Town as a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Humanities (from January 2000) and is also involved with the Gorée Institute in Dakar (Senegal) and with New York University, where he teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program.

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