Folk singer sees past blindness
Suzanna Holland, from South Africa, belts out tunes at Thursday Night Market in Chico
Suzanna Holland is a folk singer from South Africa. She’s also blind. Although Holland had to have her eyes removed at eight months old to prevent a childhood cancer from spreading, she doesn’t like to dwell on it, or let it define her. She moved to the United States in 1988 and has lived in Cohasset for the past nine years. The singer comes to the Thursday Night Market about once a month to be around people, and to play her music. On a recent Thursday, Holland—wearing a headdress of flowers, and “looking” through a pair of crystal blue eyes—sat in her chair and crooned into a little microphone.
Tell me about your outfit.
I like to be festive. I know it’s just outward things, outer feathers, really. But it is something cheerful, something fun. I enjoy wearing these flower hats because it makes me happy. I always want to start a fashion, but it’s never happened [laughs].
How long have you played at farmers markets?
Eighteen years or so. I’ve been in this country for 20 years. I used to play at the BART station in the Bay Area. I like farmers markets; I play the Saturday market, too. It’s a fun atmosphere, and I like to be outside. It’s my favorite thing, to be outside.
How old were you when you first started playing music?
[When] I was 14 I started to teach myself the guitar. I’m not spectacular or anything. I manage to accompany myself, at least, and play the basic chords. I don’t want to be famous or anything.
What is the hardest thing about being blind?
That I can’t see the stars, and that I can’t just grab a bicycle and go somewhere by myself, or take a walk anywhere I want without having to learn exactly what to do. It’s a bit of a nuisance, you know? Bit of a bummer.
Has being blind affected your music or how you see the world?
Oh, not really. I just try to take things as they come. I feel happy when I play. It always makes me feel better. It is like a nice point of light. Oh, but that sounds corny. They always talk about the “poor blind” and “seeing the light” [laughs]. I mean, it is a point of joy.
What are the most influential things in your life?
Nature and my friends. Music. My kitty-cat. My doggie. My best friend, Samuel. My boyfriend, Michael.
What made you come to America?
I came just sort of on a whim. We just talked, my friends and I, in South Africa one day, and they said, “You know, you should go to the States; it’s kind of a nice place to hang out, and go and do some yoga and some ashrams.” So I did that, and I visited some nudist colonies as well. Naturists! That’s what they should call it, naturism.