A Case of Refracted Feminism: Reimagining Bessie Head’s Oeuvre
Critically hailed as one of the most celebrated voices in African literature at the time of her death in 1986, Bessie Head and her oeuvre have remained the subject of ongoing scholarly discussion to this day. Head was not only a fine writer but she also emerged into literary prominence at a time and place of great significance in the history of southern Africa. It will be argued that her fiction underscores the plight of the socially marginalized in eccentric and seminal ways and that it bears the potential to enrich debates on Africanism, feminism and womanism. This paper recognizes that the layers of complexity in Head’s novels still have to be decoded more fully from a number of perspectives, and it is its aim to highlight some increased lucidity that may be obtained through considering Head’s novels from the point of view of her discourse on feminism. Although issues handled in Head’s fiction can be seen as affirming feminist views like those of Colleen Dryden et al (2000: 117), in their argument that African feminism should include the geographical area of Africa, the study of African women’s oppression, the recognition of the uniqueness of different African societies and the study of women’s choices and successes, the contradictions about womanhood and Africanness detract from discursive coherence required at the abstract level of theory and ideas.