Academic journal article Researchers World

The Place of Identity and Hybridity on Literary Commitment in Bessie Head's Maru

Academic journal article Researchers World

The Place of Identity and Hybridity on Literary Commitment in Bessie Head's Maru

Article excerpt


The study examined the influence of identity on literary commitment of Bessie Head - a multicultural writer. In particular, the study was interested in the hybrid syncretic crossings reflected in her work and which defined her as a writer in the Third Space- the contact zone within which different cultures encounter. The objective of the study was to analyze how the writer's identity influences her commitment in the text Mam. The study adopted the analytical research design. The data collected through content analysis was coded according to thematic concerns, the mode of characterization and vision of the author. The postcolonial theory was instrumental in the reading, analysis and interpretation of the selected text. The findings reveal that the writer's identity influences her commitment as reflected in her choice of characters that like her are cast in the in-between space. These characters shuttle between points of inclusion and exclusion. The quest for a universal identity that defies definitions of race or tribe is shrouded in shackles of prejudice enshrined in the traditional outlook which must be dismantled in order to attain total liberty. The writer's desire for a race free society in which everybody projects a global identity is projected through the creation of Margaret, a borderline character that was hardly African but something new and universal, a type of personality that would be unable to fit into a definition of something as narrow as tribe or race or nation. However, this dream is encumbered with a lot of challenges thus reflecting the difficulty of erasing cultural differences. The text thus offers hybridity as a bridge which bonds though it does not obliterate cultural differences. It implies an unsettling of identities so that the characters consistently grapple with issues of being and becoming in their quest to redefine their identity.

Keywords: Identity, Hybridity, Literary commitment, Bessie Head.


In Africa, the greatest challenge facing the African novelist is primarily one of domesticating an alien form striving to make it his own, seeking to mould it into an instrument of investigating historical and social issues that are peculiarly African, always hoping to create an authentic voice (Gikandi, 1984). The alien form in this context refers to the novel as a genre borrowed from the West. Gikandi in this case acknowledges the novel as a genre of dual tradition and recognizes the novelist 's ability to chart his or her own unique path towards commitment irrespective of its duality.

Grobman (2007) argues that texts by writers of color are multiply inflected hybrids that blur but do not erase cultural difference, thereby allowing for multiple crossings or intersections of meaning (sic). Hybridity commonly refers to the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zones produced by colonization (Larangy, 2008). Hybridisation takes many forms including cultural, political and linguistic. In line with Grobman's view, the commitment of such writers may reflect hybrid syncretic crossing that constitute their subject matter. The multicultural text thus offers a model enabling us to refigure our understanding of difference and in the African context, to re see all African literature as interconnected nexus.

The current study examined the influence of identity on the literary commitment of Bessie Head, a colored, born in an asylum 's hospital in South Africa, to a white woman who was considered mad: her father was black. Head was taken from her mother at birth and raised in a foster home until the age of thirteen. She attended missionary> school and eventually became a teacher. Abandoning teaching after only a few years, she began to write for the Golden City Post. As the political crisis deepened in South Africa in the 1960s, Bessie went to exile in rural Botswana where she remained in refugee status for fifteen years before gaining citizenship. …

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