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Cape TownGaborone
PietermaritzburgSerowe (many docs!)

Bessie Amelia Emery was born on July 6th, 1937 ...
In 2007 we gave her four great parties!

Bessie Head turned 70 years old this year. The occasion was marked by events in four Southern African cities.

On 6 July 1937, little Bessie got off to an inauspicious start: she was born Bessie Amelia Emery in the huge Fort Napier mental institution in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where her mother Toby Emery was incarcerated. Her first set of foster parents returned her because she wasn’t white. But she was soon sent to good foster parents, George and Nellie Heathcote, in the Coloured/Indian section of town. She grew up there along the Duzi river, regularly attending school and church, until she was 13.

On 12 July 2007 Pietermaritzburg held a day-long seminar in her honour and unveiled the new name of its main library: the Bessie Head Library.

She became a writer after moving to Cape Town’s famous District Six in 1958. There she learned to write, married Harold Head, joined in anti-apartheid politics, had a breakdown, gave birth to her only child (son Howard), and wrote the short novel The Cardinals.

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On Sunday 17 June 2007 at the Cape Town Book Fair, panellists and audience discussed "The Legacy of Bessie Head".

The rolling party then moved to Gaborone, Botswana, where an elaborate two-day party was hosted on 5-6 July 2007 at the University of Botswana. UB was the first academic institution to welcome Bessie and invite her to speak, at a legendary Writers' Workshop in 1975.

In 1964 Bessie left South Africa forever. She moved to Serowe, Botswana, to become a primary school teacher. It was here, in the then-traditional village of Khama the Great, that she found her writing brilliance. In 1969 she chose to build her permanent home here. Most of her published wiriting and an astounding correspondence date from her years in Botswana.

Serowe acclaimed her most famous daughter during a three-day bash, 14-15-16 July 2007. Hundreds of people took part in the vivid celebrations. Writer Unity Dow offered a stirring opening address, followed by a great diversity of cultural activities. Don't miss this page and its many documents!


Read our earlier preview of BessieFest 2007
 

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2009 Bessie Head Heritage Trust