Born in Pietermaritzburg in 1937, Head passed away in 1986. Since her death, the significance and influence of her life and work has been brought more starkly into focus.
She is best known for three novels – When Rain Clouds Gather (1968), Maru (1971) and A Question of Power (1974).
As with the writing of Bâ and Emecheta, Head’s fiction is preoccupied with the issues, struggles and questions that defined her own highly unique narrative.
One of her most pressing concerns was the relationship between racial identity and notions of belonging, born as she was to a then “forbidden” union involving a black man and Scottish woman.
If much contemporary post-colonial fiction is dominated by themes of hybridity and mixture, often framed in somewhat saccharine ways, Head’s experiences and writing attend to the pain, sometimes even trauma, of being a mixed-race woman within a predominantly patriarchal, racist society.
But as with Bâ and Emecheta, the hope and beauty of her work comes from the creation of a singular voice driven by her commitment to writing as a form of correcting injustice and offering resistance.
Favourite text: A Question of Power
Some of the Books by Bessie Head: