Colloquium to Explore Work of South African/Botswanan Writer Bessie Head

Posted September 30th, 2010 at 3:39 pm.

This week, the Bryn Mawr College Department of English and Program in Africana Studies, in conjunction with The International Bessie Head Society, will host a colloquium on the literary works on Bessie Head, a complex figure whose work has been “the subject of provocative international debate and inquiry.”

The colloquium will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2, in the English House Lecture Hall from 9:30 a.m.to 3:15 p.m. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are welcome to attend.

The colloquium will feature lectures from Bates College Associate Professor of African American Studies and Woman and Gender Studies Sue E. Houchins and Bryn Mawr College Associate Professor of English and Coordinator for The International Bessie Head Society Linda-Susan Beard. Each presentation will be followed by an hourlong discussion.

Bessie Emery Head (1937-1986) left apartheid South African in 1964 on a permanent exit visa and settled in rural Serowe, Botswana with her young son. There she produced all her literary works, becoming one of Africa’s prominent literary figures. While her writing drew attention from major international publishing houses and led to correspondence with the likes of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Yoko Ono, and Nadine Gordimer, Head was never able to escape poverty or the trauma of apartheid and died prematurely from hepatitis, a result of long-term alcoholism. Despite having lived and worked under the strain of undiagnosed and untreated manic depression and schizophrenia, Head produced a large body of work, including more than 2000 letters, and her texts have been translated into two dozen languages.

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