I’m 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. – Bessie Head
Country: South Africa/ Botswana
Why We Love Her: Bessie Head is considered to be Botswana’s most influential writer, a lone voice portraying life there at the time, producing work that questioned race, sexism, prejudice and the workings of Motswana village life. A quiet dignity governs her most popular works, Maru, When Clouds Gather and A Question of Violence. These books are short but potent, Bessie’s clear style ringing true. She died in relative poverty, before her time at only 49, and lived a life troubled by circumstances beyond her control but we remember her honest creative vision, pioneering spirit and great legacy.
“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.” – Bessie Head, A Question of Power
‘Even the trees were dying, from roots upwards,’ he said. ‘Does everything die like this?’‘No,’ she said. ‘You may see no rivers on the ground but we keep the rivers inside us. That is why all good things and all good people are called rain. Sometimes we see the rain clouds gather even though not a cloud appears in the sky. It is all in our heart.’ – Bessie Head, When Rain Clouds Gather