Zitkala Sa, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, and Bama, also known as Fatima Meer, are two influential female writers who belong to different cultural and social backgrounds. Although they share a commonality of being women and writers, they differ in their experiences, beliefs, and contexts. This essay aims to explore the differences between Zitkala Sa and Bama in terms of their biographies, literary themes, and the cultural and social contexts that impacted their works.
To begin with, Zitkala Sa was a Native American writer, activist, and musician who was born in Yankton Reservation in South Dakota in 1876. Her Native name means "Red Bird," and her father baptized her Gertrude Simmons in a missionary school, where she experienced cultural assimilation and the suppression of her Native identity. Zitkala Sa became a spokesperson for Native American rights and wrote several literary works that depict the struggles and injustices that Native Americans faced, such as "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" and "The School Days of an Indian Girl." Moreover, Zitkala Sa was a founder of the National Council of American Indians and contributed to the preservation of Native American cultures and histories. However, her activism and writing were also criticized by both Native and non-Native people, as she was seen as either too radical or too assimilated.
On the other hand, Bama was a South African writer, political activist, and educator who was born in 1928 in Durban. Her birth name is Fatima Meer, but she adopted the pen name Bama, which means "flower." Bama hailed from an Indian Muslim family and grew up in a racially segregated society where Indians faced discrimination from the British colonial rule and the South African apartheid government. Bama became involved in the anti-apartheid movement and the struggle for the rights of Indian and Black South Africans. She also wrote several literary works that reflect the experiences of Indian women in South Africa, such as "A Pair of Jeans" and "The Rainbow Comes and Goes." Additionally, Bama was a professor at the University of Durban-Westville and founded the Women's Development Programme to empower women through education and socio-economic assistance.
In terms of literary themes, Zitkala Sa and Bama differ in the issues they address and the ways they express their ideas. Zitkala Sa's works often deal with the clash between Native American and Western cultures, the loss of cultural identity, and the plight of Native American women. For example, her short story "The Soft-Hearted Sioux" portrays the conflict between two Sioux tribes with different attitudes towards the white settlers, while her essay "Why I Am a Pagan" critiques the Christian missionaries' efforts to convert Native Americans. Zitkala Sa's writing style is also characterized by its poetic language, vivid imagery, and emotional intensity, which convey her personal experiences and beliefs. She often employs metaphors and symbols to emphasize the significance of Native American traditions and values.
In contrast, Bama's works focus on the intersection of gender, race, and class in South African society and the struggles of Indian women to achieve equality and dignity. Her stories often depict the daily lives of working-class women who face discrimination and violence from men and the state. Bama's writing style is more straightforward and realistic than Zitkala Sa's, as she employs colloquial language and social realism to depict the harsh realities of life under apartheid. Moreover, Bama's works also reflect her engagement with Marxist, feminist, and anti-racist theories, which she uses to critique the capitalist and patriarchal structures that perpetuate oppression and inequality.
Furthermore, Zitkala Sa and Bama differ in the cultural and social contexts that shaped their works and identities. Zitkala Sa's writing is grounded in her Native American heritage and the history of colonialism and resistance that shaped her community's experiences. She often draws on her memories of growing up on the reservation and attending the White's Manual Labor Institute, a missionary school that aimed to assimilate Native American children into white society. Zitkala Sa's activism and writing were also influenced by the political and cultural movements of her time, such as the Pan-Indian movement and the fight for women's suffrage.
In comparison, Bama's writing is informed by the South African context of apartheid and the struggles of Indian and Black South Africans for freedom and human rights. She was influenced by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who inspired her to engage in non-violent resistance and to challenge the structures of oppression through education and activism. Bama's writing reflects the impact of apartheid on Indian women's lives, such as the Group Areas Act that forced them to relocate to segregated areas and the pass laws that restricted their mobility and autonomy. Bama's works also reflect her role as a social activist and educator, as she sought to empower women and challenge patriarchal norms through her writing and teaching.
In conclusion, Zitkala Sa and Bama are two remarkable female writers who contributed to the literary and political landscapes of their respective cultures. Although they have differences in their biographies, literary themes, and contexts, they both share a commitment to social justice and the empowerment of marginalized communities. Their works continue to inspire readers and activists around the world to challenge oppression, respect diversity, and celebrate the power of literature to transform lives.