“I Felt Misunderstood by the World”: The Interplay of Fame, Adversity, and Identity in Bonnie (Mbuli) Henna’s Autobiography Eyebags & Dimples





Bonnie Henna, fame, celebrity autobiography, identity, memory, South African life-writing


Bonnie (Mbuli) Henna’s autobiography, Eyebags & Dimples (2012), navigates the intricate and multifaceted interplay between fame, adversity, and identity in a uniquely South African post-colonial context. Through an ‘interested’ (re)memorialisation of her journey of becoming a black female celebrity, Henna unveils the complexities of becoming and being a celebrity in a transitioning society marked by pervasive historical legacies of institutionalised disadvantage, shifting notions of gender, and agency. Focusing on what is remembered and how it is remembered for specific aesthetic and perspectival effects, this article examines Henna’s identity project in Eyebags & Dimples. It explores how autobiographical memory in the text becomes, for Henna, a technology of the self she implements to grapple with profound internal struggles inhabiting her (celebrity) identity. Deploying theories of self-writing and memory, the article centres on Henna’s portrayal of adversity – its past location in the colonial home and township and its persistence in family relations – to understand the nature of memory-assisted self-(re)identification processes. The article argues that adversity emerges in Eyebags & Dimples as a transformative force that allows Henna to inscribe history, race, mental health, and family onto her consciousness of being famous. Within this context, Henna’s celebrity identity is completed as re-formed through the narrative stabilisation of the tension between her public fame and personal struggles.


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Author Biography

Nonki Motahane, University of the Free State

Nonki Motahane (PhD) teaches literary studies in the Department of English at the University of the Free State, South Africa. Her research focuses on South African and African literature, African mobilities in literature as well as space and identity formation.


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How to Cite

Motahane, Nonki, and Oliver Nyambi. 2024. “‘I Felt Misunderstood by the World’: The Interplay of Fame, Adversity, and Identity in Bonnie (Mbuli) Henna’s Autobiography Eyebags & Dimples”. Journal of Literary Studies 40 (1):17 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/1753-5387/16081.
Received 2024-02-19
Accepted 2024-04-19
Published 2024-05-31