Glimpses of hapinness

Some light entered Bessie's life when she met Harold Head. They were married in September 1961 and had their first and only child Howard a year later. During this time, both Harold and Bessie wrote for the New African newspaper, and Bessie continued to develop a keen political consciousness.

Bessie's hapinness with her new family was short-lived. By 1964, she had decided to leave her husband, accusing him of womanising. At the same time, she made the decision to leave South Africa, to seek an escape from the political situation. She took up a teaching post in Serowe in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (Now Botswana), but she was barred from getting a passport and was forced to leave South Africa on an exit visa. This meant that she could never return to the country of her birth. In 1967, she officially registered as a South African refugee. She remained a refugee for the next fifteen years before she became a Botswana citizen. Her refugee status reinforced her feelings of being marginalised and rejected by those around her.

Hence she wrote:


Self Portrait


And low down,


Indifferent earth worm;

Plunging, leaping,

Flickering, wavering,

Stammering, hesitating,

Bold, reckless, impatient;

Static, placid,

Of no certain direction;

Isolated, like driftwood

On the tossing, heaving ocean -

Flung to the top of a high-sounding,

Dazzling wave,

Engulfed in the anonymous depths;

Oh contradictions!

THAT is I.

                          Handwritten; dated 2 July, 1961; signed B. Head

back to the Bessie Head memorial page

"I'm an individual. Nobody shall make me ashamed of who I am!"
Bessie Head


In this lesson plan, learners will get a small taste of the power of Bessie Head's writing. They will also be exposed to the great personal suffering she endured, partly as a result of the hurtful ideas about coloured people that were encouraged during apartheid. Head's letters tell us a great deal about the loneliness caused by prejudice.

Lesson plan
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
Artwork photo gallery
More images of Bessie's memorial artwork erected at Werda Hoerskool in Hillary, Durban.
Archive photo gallery
'Life in pictures' - these images range from when she was a young journalist to when she was at Serowe, Botswana.