Why Bessie Head wrote

Legendary: Bessie Head the journalist interviews a fortune teller. Photograph from the 1960s by Drum Photographer
Legendary: Bessie Head the journalist interviews a fortune teller. Photograph from the 1960s by Drum Photographer

Bessie Head would have turned 84 on Tuesday. Her novels play out in eastern Botswana, where she settled down to write. But why did she write and why is her journalism unjustly neglected? DARRYL ACCONE* writes

Dimitri Tsafendas and Bessie Head shared the weight of being of mixed-race parentage in a country governed by a clique obsessed with race, racial categories and perverse fantasies of racial purity. Tsafendas worked through the noxious effects of racism by being first a left-wing thinker and working-class hero, and then striking at the head of the apartheid state, killing its leader Hendrik Verwoerd in the very place that had enacted so many racist evils, the South African Parliament. Head was less lucky, battling poverty, political betrayal, depression, attempted suicide, a failed marriage and unprepossessing child, and, finally, hepatitis brought on by prolonged heavy drinking.

In her beginnings lay so many of Head’s later travails and traumas. Born on July 6, 1937 in the then Fort Napier Mental Institution in Pietermaritzburg to a white mother and a black father, she was given her Scottish mother’s name, Bessie Amelia Emery, but taken away at birth and brought up in a foster home until she turned 13.

Editor's Comment
Let the law take its course

When the news broke, a fierce debate ensued. While some members of the public believe that the law should take its cause, there is a section of the population that believes the move to detain the MP is politically motivated.Matsheka has been in the custody of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security since August 2 and the warrant of arrest was allegedly obtained on August 4, two days later.The issue of alleged ritual murders has never been an...

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