Exploring Poetic Dwelling in African Prose: Heideggerian Echoes in Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather (1968)





Martin Heidegger , Poetic Dwelling, Prosaic Dwelling, African Literature, Bessie Head


This article delves into the profound exploration of Martin Heidegger’s concept of “poetic dwelling” by reinterpreting it through the prism of prosaic artistry, with a specific focus on Bessie Head’s seminal work, When Rain Clouds Gather (1968), within the context of postcolonial African literature. Departing from conventional interpretations confined to poetry and Western literary forms, the study elevates prose as a potent medium for encapsulating Heidegger’s philosophy of dwelling, extending the discourse beyond Euro-American-centric origins. The analysis meticulously examines Head’s narrative strategies, thematic shifts, and symbolic complexity, unraveling the intricacies of “poetic dwelling” embedded in her novel. The protagonist, Makhaya, becomes a vessel for Head’s narrative, mirroring her own displacement and facticity as a mixed-race South African woman, exiled writer, and feminist in Botswana. The study contends that postcolonial African prose, exemplified by Head’s work, offers a novel lens for interpreting Heidegger’s concept, emphasizing its universal nature while acknowledging diverse manifestations across cultures. This perspective aims to enrich the comprehension of Heidegger’s ‘poetic dwelling’ philosophy, expanding its understanding beyond traditional boundaries and shedding light on the intricate representation in world literatures. The article underscores the unique contributions of African literature to the global philosophical and literary canon, urging a reevaluation of ontological dimensions within the vibrant tapestry of African prose.

Author Biography

  • Azzeddine Tajjiou, Mohamed First University

    Azzeddine Tajjiou, a doctoral researcher at Mohamed 1st University in Oujda, Morocco, specializes in Cultural Studies, with a particular emphasis on Colonial and Post-Colonial discourse. His research primarily delves into African Literature and Film of the 20th and 21st century.