Back to BessieFest News              BessieHead home              Gaborone Abstracts (PDF)

The Gaborone Symposium in Honour of Bessie Head

For two wonderful days in Gaborone, July 5 and 6, 2007, some 40 people gathered at the University of Botswana and talked about Bessie; 21 of them gave presentations. The downloadable full progamme is also found below; the abstracts in an abstracts document; and the full articles are due to be published next year as a Proceedings volume, by Pentagon Publishers in Gaborone. Special thanks go to the University of Botswana and its English Dept. for much material support.

The extraordinary organising committee of Mary Lederer, Leloba Molema, Seatholo Tumedi, and Dixie Molefe did a fantastic job. Rarely has any symposium followed a complex programme so smoothly!

Below is the programme as was almost followed. Amina Mansour, regretfully, had to withdraw because of illness. And many times we ran over our budgested time because of the animated discussions that followed each presentation or group of presentations.

Gaborone, 5–6 July 2007

Thursday, 5 July

09:00   Opening
09:15   Maria Rytter, “Origins of the Bessie Head Archive” [read PDF text]
09:45   Gillian Stead Eilersen, “Miss Marpling Around Southern Africa: The
           Confessions of an Amateur Researcher”
10:15   Barulaganye Modongo, “Fa Maru a Pula a Kokoana: Translating Bessie
           Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather into Setswana”

10:45  TEA

11:00   Leloba Molema, “The Politics of Naming in When Rain Clouds Gather
11:30   Nono Kgafela, “The Depiction of the Caste System in Bessie Head’s
           Maru and Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable
12:00   Maitseo Bolaane, “Maru and Contemporary Basarwa Identity”

(Transportation to/from the restaurant will be arranged)

14:00   Sonja Darlington, “Bessie Head’s Response to ‘The Call of the
           Global Green’”
14:30   Charlotte Broad, “Translating/Writing/Gendering Cultures”
15:00   Bruce Bennett, “Ecumenical Readings of Bessie Head”

15:30  TEA

15:45   Grant Lilford, “Motswana ke mang? Tswana Culture and Values in
           Plaatje, Head and McCall Smith”
16:15   Ann Langwadt, “Continuity and Roots: Narrative Identity in Fiction
           and Autobiography”
16:45   Tom Holzinger, “Bessie Head’s Black Antecedents” [related PDF here]
17:15   END


 Friday, 6 July (Bessie's Actual Birthday)

09:00   Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, "'Raising Hell': Body Politics in the Letters of
           Bessie Head"
09:30   Bobana Badisang, "'Women at Point Zero': A Comparative Analysis of
           Prison Narratives in Nawal El Saadawi's Work and Bessie Head's
           The Collector of Treasures"
10:00   Sarah Mandow, "Boundaries and Beyond: The Dynamics of Resistance
           and Control in the Work of Bessie Head"

10:30  TEA

10:45   Tiro Sebina, "Discarding the Encumbrance of Tradition:
           Libertarian Impulses in Bessie Head's Botswana Village Tales"
11:15   Amina Mansour, "Maru's Utopia in Absence"
11:45   F.-K. Omoregie, "The Narcissistic Personality in Bessie Head's
           A Question of Power"


14:00   Linda-Susan Beard, "Bessie Head's Epistolary Art"
14:30   Cecil Abrahams, "Bessie Head, Conflict, and Peacemaking in
           Southern Africa"

15:00  TEA

15:15   Seatholo Tumedi, "'Mistress' Who Smoked without End: Memories of
           Bessie Head's Tshekedi Memorial School Pupils"
15:45   Motsomi Marobela, "Homage to Bessie"
16:15   Closing and Thanks
16:30   END



The assembled goup of participants at one of our excellent tea breaks. Unfortunately famous organiser Mary Lederer had just ducked her head in the back row and her face is not visible. Thanks to Sarah Mandow for this picture.
Three well-known presenters: Gillian Eilersen, author of Thunder Behind Her Ears; Linda-Susan Beard, compiler of the forthcoming collection of Bessie's letters; and Cecil Abrahams, editor of an early critical work, The Tragic Life. Photo credit Sarah Mandow.
Lunch at Café Khwest on the first day. This second-floor restaurant overlooks Gaborone's main shopping and business mall. Photo credit Hitomi Yokoyama.
From an earlier photograph by TH in Serowe: Leloba Molema and Mary Lederer. Following the Gaborone celebration, they negotiated the publication of the Gaborone and Pietermaritzburg papers in a Proceedings volume. Mary is currently editing them as well as acting secretary of the Bessie Head Heritage Trust. Two productive ladies!
An unconvincing presentation on Bessie's black paternity! Tom Holzinger argued that the identity of Bessie's father has been deliberately hidden by her white family and might soon be known. Photo: Hitomi Yokoyama.
Gillian Eilersen cuts cake on second day of Symposium, on Bessie Head's actual 70th birthday. Bessie once wrote that, as a child, she never had a birthday party. So this one was long overdue. Photo thanks to Maria Rytter.
Scene from the remarkable play, Snapshots, performed by players from the University of Botswana under the overall direction of F-K Omoregie. But this photo, by Tshepang Pitso, was taken at the Serowe performance! Who has a photo from the Gaborone show?

Note: The play Snapshots is based on several of Bessie Head's short stories, particularly "The Lovers". It was worked out by F-K Omoregie and his students in a gloriously creative collaboration. If you have other photos, we would be delighted to publish them. Remember that the full texts of all the papers, together with the Pietermaritzburg ones, are due to be published together next year.

     Back to BessieFest News              BessieHead home              Gaborone Programme (PDF)