Borders Literature Online

Bessie Head 's Biography

Bessie Head  pictureWas born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the child of a wealthy white South African woman and a black servant when interracial relationships were illegal in South Africa. After her mother killed herself, Bessie was raised by foster parents and later in a mission orphanage. She qualified as a teacher, briefly taught at a school, and was employed as a journalist before turning full time to her literary production: novels short fiction and autobiographical writings.In 1964, exiled by the Government of South Africa, she settled in Serowe, the largest of Botswana's "villages"famousfor its historical importance as capital of the Bamangwato people. The deposed chief of the Bamangwato, SeretseKhama, was soon to become the first President of independent Botswana.

Bessie Head's early death in Serowe in 1986, aged 48, from hepatitis, came when she was just starting to achieve recognition and today, though born in South Africa, she is considered Botswana's most influential writer.