Literary Birthday – 6 July – Bessie Head

Bessie Head was born 6 July 1937, and died 17 April 1986.

Nine Quotes

  1. I am building a stairway to the stars. I have the authority to take the whole of mankind up there with me. That is why I write.
  2. And love was like a girl walking down a road on staggering legs with the wind blowing through her hair. And love was like a girl with wonder in her eyes. And love was like a girl with a flaming heart and impulsive arms. And love was so many things, so many variations on one theme: humility and equality – for when those men said: ‘Is it possible? Could you love me?’, thrones and kingdoms were of no account against the power of love.
  3. How could someone run away from their own mind?
  4. I once sat down on a bench at Cape Town railway station where the notice ‘Whites Only’ was obscured. A few moments later a white man approached and shouted: ‘Get off!’ It never occurred to him that he was achieving the opposite of his dreams of superiority and had become a living object of contempt, that human beings, when they are human, dare not conduct themselves in such ways.
  5. People with really weak characters cause an immense amount of suffering in the world. They destroy whole civilisations.
  6. There they said the black man was naturally dull, stupid, inferior, but they made sure to deprive him of the type of education which developed personality, intellect, skill.
  7. I’m an individual. Nobody shall make me ashamed of who I am!
  8. I am building a small house, with two rooms, and a third divided into a bathroom, toilet, and kitchen. I am building it with the thousand pounds I received from the paperback sales of Rain Clouds to Bantam Books. The house is minute but the pride is overwhelming. It is the first brick thing I shall ever own…The house when complete will cost me about 600 to 700 pounds.
  9. I write because I have authority from life to do so.

Bessie Head was one of Southern Africa’s most well-known authors. She was born in South Africa. In 1950, at the age of 12, she was removed from the woman she believed to be her mother and sent to St. Monica’s Diocesan Home for Coloured Girls. She spent six years at the Home, where she was encouraged to read and study for the first time. In 1951 she was told that she was the child of an ‘insane’ white woman and an unknown ‘native’ man. Her resulting struggle with issues of identity is reflected in her writing. She is considered Botswana’s most influential writer and one of Africa’s most respected writers. She wrote A Question of Power.

Source for image: Indiana University

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 6th July 2013