Roots

 
Bless you, readers, for your contributions ...
Appreciation and criticism as it ought to be

 
(and apologies from the Web master that this page has not been updated for so long!)

Psychoanalysis Applied to The Cardinals
We have recently received a second striking comparison of Bessie's work to that of another African author — in this case to the martyred Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Early signs were not good:

I'm researching The Cardinals by your very own Bessie Head for an undergraduate essay at Leeds university ... Critical work on Bessie Head, especially The Cardinals, isn't exactly widespread, shamefully, so I was wondering if you could help me out and point me in the direction of any critical works, articles etc?

No matter, student Thomas Youngs came through with an essay of startling originality. His teacher recognised its qualities, and four months later Thomas wrote in a very different tone:

I received a very good mark for my work on Bessie Head, a First, the only one I've managed in 4 years at university! Very proud of it. I hope you would still be interested in using the essay in whatever capacity, you are very welcome to.

Hey, we are delighted to share this one! Thomas wrote again a few days ago: "I bought Sozaboy last week to pair up with my copy of The Cardinals as a birthday gift for my grandma, who is the most literary of my family and has always been interested in my essays." May we suggest The Cardinals as a Christmas present for everyone? It has not only a beautifully edgy love story but also the shimmering Earth and Everything and other personal essays.
 

Bessie Head: A Soul Divided
Employing dance, song, and performance, this short video looks at the struggles and challenges faced by the young Bessie. It is the product of a Cape Town-based nonprofit called Footprints. It has played to acclaim at many film festivals. Copies available from Serowe's Khama Museum.

 
Elizabeth, Native Intellectual
This is a striking comparison of Head and Franz Fanon. Author Temperance David is a friend known to us only by correspondence. Here is what she writes:

I first encountered Bessie Head's A Question of Power while studying postcolonial literature as an undergraduate at Purchase College in New York, where I wrote Bessie Head: Native Intellectual, a short discussion of Head's novel in light of some ideas from Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. The combined forcefulness and vulnerability of Head's writing continues to resonate with me in my current life and work as an instructor of literature and writing in upstate New York.
 

Writing As Autobiography
One of the very first scholars to study the Bessie Head Papers was Sue Atkinson in 1989. For the following decade, off and on, she wrote a PhD thesis based on that correspondence. Now she has sent us her Introduction and Chapter 1, with this note:

Hello Tom, good to hear from you. I wrote a full-length Ph.D thesis, and would have liked to publish it as a book but due to the day job(s) which include some part-time teaching for Nottingham University's Continuing Education Dept (that's working with older students, often from non-academic backgrounds) but mainly giving learning advice to people using adult mental health services, I never got round to it! The other reason — and this probably sounds stupid — is that after I finished the thesis I couldn't look at it for ages, because I felt bereft. I'd worked on it part-time for so many years that it felt like a physical loss to finish it! It's written in about 10 chapters, and I found it very difficult in that I didn't want to treat Bessie Head as an academic subject, but to keep at the forefront the fact that she was a human being first and foremost. Difficult in an academic environment!

I would dearly love to come over a commemoration — please keep me posted on dates — I really want to come! I would fund my own airfare as I don't work full time in academia. It would be great to re-visit, I have such fantastic memories. I'm going to be away for a couple of weeks, but could send the introduction as an attachment to see what you think.
Very best wishes, Sue
 

Launch of Imaginative Trespasser
The first launch took place at the University of Cape Town on the evening of 12 July 2005. The main talk was contributed by Margaret Daymond of Durban, read out for her by Margaret Lenta. Her comments are linked below. The second "book party" was held at the Boekehuis in Joburg on 30 July 2005. Craig MacKenzie posed questions to author Cullinan and offered remarks:

"Bessie's letters are very revealing — more so, perhaps, than those of most writers. She is frank, forthright, and sometimes downright outrageous. Imaginative Trespasser offers us an alternative Bessie Head ... insights into an inner world that was as frightening as it was fascinating."

Margaret Daymond's appreciation of Imaginative Trespasser

Craig MacKenzie's appreciation of Imaginative Trespasser

Student projects from the University of Botswana, 2003

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