South African writer Bessie Head (1937-1986) lived and worked in exile in Botswana and knew from personal experience many different faces of oppression. Her novels constitute deep and complex analyses of the mechanisms of oppression, yet at the same time envision radically new and empowering strategies for liberation.
This thesis examines how liberation is conceptualised and inscribed in Head s debut novel When Rain Clouds Gather (1969) - a story in which a small Botswana community undergoes a political, material and ideological revolution by virtue of a new community agricultural project in the year of Botswana s transition to independence.
In the first section I explore the political, material and ideological dimensions of liberation as they figure in and around this community project. Participatory work practices and co-operative decision making structures are seen to be a democratic replacement for feudal institutions of power. Co-operatives also form the basis for new agricultural practices where a more holistic and nurturing relationship to the land serves to provide the community with a more sustainable livelihood. Fundamental to these broader changes is a new social ethic of solidarity and generosity.
In the second section I examine how liberation is inscribed in the literary form of the novel. Oral and mythic elements, symbolism and metaphors, and transgressions of archetypes and genre combine to both realise the novel s political project, and, create liberated spaces in the text for dream and imagination.
In the last section I explore how these dimensions combine to produce a unique conception of liberation in so far as it is constituted by a form of reconciliation . A reconciled community in which hierarchical dichotomies have been broken down, the individual is reconciled to all elements of the self, and different genres and life-spheres have been brought together, is presented by Head as a truly liberated society - one where difference can be celebrated. The driving force behind this movement towards reconciliation and liberation is love. Head identifies love as the single most important factor in the achievement of comprehensive liberation - a liberation that is at once material and political, ideological and artistic. Through love the individual can liberate herself and this then forms the basis for a liberated community.