I so hate myself to be pinned down. My mind is always leaping ahead. People sense this. They resent it. Their little bit of truth is enough. Their life stops on their doorstep... I'd like to get a head start. I'd like to be a confederator in this new world. I've long outgrown my small little one. They have the signs up all over - trespassers will be prosecuted - but I am an imaginative trespasser. There are no real barriers then.
(Bessie Head, 3 October 1965)
(Souls) From Cape Town to Serowe and Back...
(...) There’s Bessie Head, of course, in extracts from “Imaginative Trespasser” (Letters between Bessie Head, Patrick and Wendy Cullinan 1963 - 1977) – a true literary treasure for me. I found it some three weeks ago and it took me to the good old days of the fine art of letter writing, which is all but dead nowadays, and has probably renewed in me this “bad habit” of writing to people… BJ, you certainly know her story: she eventually made peace with the ‘biggest African village’ and the village with her; she even came to deeply love the country, having at some point ‘fallen in love’ with the images and legacy of Khama the Great and Tshekedi – the very founder of the school where she had been given so much grief; built a little house with the proceedings of one of her books, became a citizen of the country and some sort of ‘honorary Mangwato’ even if only in her own complex and challenging (challenged?) mind…
You are one of the few I told about that afternoon I stormed out of Gabs and ended up in Serowe for the first time, where I spent a pleasant night in a thatched rondavel and the next day went around the place: visited the Kgotla, where the Chief (also a member of the clans Khama and Seretse) kindly received me, told me about the History of the place and the country and then offered to take me to the Khama graves, having walked me half the way till I asked him not to make the effort all the way uphill; went to the Khama Museum and even passed by the Tshekedi Memorial School. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t know about the details of Bessie’s life in all those places, or of her arquives in the Museum, otherwise I would have certainly spent more time there just to find out more about her. I’m even tempted to go there again to complete the visit before I leave for Cape Town.
I had been wanting to go there since I read a book about a year ago by Gasebalwe Seretse, “Tshekedi Khama: The Master Whose Dogs Barked at - A critical look at Ngwato Politics”… Now, picture this: just now, I went to fetch this book to double check the author’s name and just ‘discovered’ that, among an all bunch of books on the Khamas and Botswana that I bought in the last year but still haven’t had the time to read, I have “A Question of Power” by Bessie, which I was in the last few days thinking about buying after reading “Imaginative Trespasser”… and more: Seretse actually quotes from Bessie's twice in his book to help the reader visualise Serowe… What a find!
(From a letter from me to some friends, SEP 2005)
*[First posted 25/01/07]