Those of us who went to high school in the early 2000s know of Bessie Head from literature class. Which is why it was delightful to find this fantastic piece by Nanjala Nyabola on one of the greatest authors from the Continent.
Here is an excerpt:
She couldn’t escape writing. She tried teaching, but despite the promise of financial security, she was unable to give it up. And along with her books, her urge to make sense of her life under apartheid, in exile, and in her own mind fuelled an incredible energy for letter writing. She was an insatiable correspondent, whether writing from her home in District Six in Cape Town, or in the two-roomed house in Serowe, Botswana she called “Rain Clouds.” Some of her correspondents loved to receive the six or more neatly-typed pages she’d send in response to a single page; some found it overwhelming and quickly demurred. You can get the broad contours of her life from books—particularly the 2007 biography by Norwegian writer Gillian Eilerson, Thunder Behind Her Ears—but it’s in her letters that one of Africa’s most captivating wordsmiths bleeds her vibrant heart over the page.
Also, make sure you buy Nanjala’s excellent new book on how the internet era is transforming Kenya.