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The Cape Town Commemoration

On Sunday 17 June 2007 at the Cape Town Book Fair, panellists and audience discussed "The Legacy of Bessie Head". Special thanks goes to Henrietta Dax of Clarke's Bookshop in Cape Town, who was the energetic organiser.

Here is the advance program as received:

Cape Town Book Fair
Venue: Room 1.64, Cape Town International Conference Centre
Date: Sunday 17 June
Time: 3.00 p.m.


Angelo Fick, media, literary and cultural studies scholar, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University

Desiree Lewis, author of Living on a Horizon: Bessie Head and the Politics of Imagining (Africa World Press, 2007)

Sindiwe Magona, author of The Green Freedom of a Cockatoo (forthcoming); Mother to Mother (1998), To My Children's Children (1990) and other novels and short stories.

Elaine Salo, feminist and sociology scholar, African Gender Institute, University of Cape Town.

Born in South Africa in 1937, Bessie Head went into exile in 1964 and made a home for herself in the Botswana village of Serowe, the setting of much of her writing. The author of five novels, social history, critical essays, published letters and numerous short stories, she lived — for most of her life — off a basic income supplemented by small-scale farming, and died at the age of 49.

Head refused to embrace any political labels or camps. But her writing acutely responds to various social injustices, foreshadowing many themes surrounding current South African cultural and political struggles. Her writing also explores social, individual, spiritual and imaginative freedoms, and demonstrates her own triumphant creative independence.

In this panel, a range of South African writers and critics discuss the legacy of Bessie Head — as a socially marginalized yet courageous storyteller, social critic and artist.

Photos from the Panel Discussion (all photos courtesy Carol Martin)

Desiree Lewis makes introductory remarks. The other panelists are at the table, behind her.
Angelo Flick, left, makes first presentation of the afternoon. Desiree Lewis is at right.
Some of the audience in the room for the panel discussion. The Cape Town Book Fair is a very large event, and this panel competed successfully with many other simultaneous events.
Desiree Lewis's turn to make her presentation.
The final two speakers, Elaine Salo (left) and Sindiwe Magona (right) take the microphone.
Another view of part of the audience. The distinguished Japanese scholar of Bessie's life and work, Keiko Kusunose, in in the midle of the right-hand row.

Note: If you have other photos, we would be delighted to publish them. We still hope to have the full texts of the four presentations — perhaps you can suggest this to the panelists.

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