Afrikult. presents: Tsitsi Dangarembga
9th Apr 2015
When I was first introduced to Tsitsi Dangarembga I felt a sense of injustice in not knowing who she was or having read her work earlier. Let me put it out there straight – this woman is REMARKABLE. Tsitsi has created a laudable body of work within the fields of literature and film. She writes novels and screenplays, directs, and campaigns for women in every area of her work and expertise.
You just have to read the opening lines of her debut novel Nervous Conditions to see that this woman means business. Her work is inspired by the experiences of her upbringing in both Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and England, and she is internationally recognised for her important work in centring black African women in her stories and business ventures.
She continues to champion women and provide spaces for African women from diverse backgrounds and within various levels of society to speak freely, and most importantly ensuring that the space she provides acts as a mechanism for these voices to be heard. She continues to champion women and provide spaces for African women from diverse backgrounds and within various levels of society to speak freely, and most importantly ensuring that the space she provides acts as a mechanism for these voices to be heard. Here are five awesome ways that Tsitsi has demonstrated her powerful presence and influence in the African feminist literary and filmmaking scene.
1. Challenging the Silence and Advocating African Feminism
Tsitsi Dangarembga’s debut novel Nervous Conditions (1988) basically shut chauvinistic and sexist attitudes down. With her snarky, sharp tongue and surgical analysis of girls, women and their conditions based within colonised Rhodesia, men were not the saviours. Brazen and equipped with psychoanalytical focus, Dangarembga displays the importance of honing in on the multifaceted experiences of black girls and women, thereby advocating African feminism and joining the burgeoning presence of women writing in the continent at the time. However, Tsitsi is not only locked into literature but also uses the medium of film as a platform for varied women’s voices.
2. Founded International Images Film Festival for Women in 2003
Another demonstration of Dangarembga’s incredible drive in creating a stage where African women filmmakers can really engage and critically address pertinent issues via the lens. Ultimately this festival is fundamentally instrumental in implementing a dialogue where African girls and women are the central and dominating focus of the discussion. This annual festival still thrives today and is currently under the direction of Yvonne Jila. Last year’s theme was ‘Women Alive: Women of Heart’ – even the title invokes positive and encouraging images of African women.
3. Published Nervous Conditions (1988) at 25
Have you read this book? As in, really read it? If not we suggest you stop whatever you are currently doing and hop over to Foyles or your local book store to purchase a copy! The incredible impact of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s seminal work was accomplished through the writer’s crafting of complex characters who are interlocked by the multi-cultural and -dimensional societal failings confronting colonial Rhodesia. The protagonist Tambu is a formidable force: she opens the story with, “I was not sorry when my brother died.” And this sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Brr. Winning the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989 a year after its release, the novel has since been translated into multiple languages, and became a part of the syllabus in various schools and universities within and outside of Africa. Following the success of the novel, Dangarembga released the sequel The Book Of Not in 2006, with a proposed third.
4. First Black Zimbabwean Woman to Direct a Feature Film: Everyone’s Child (1996)
Gifted with the art of storytelling, Dangarembga writes and directs a harrowing story following Tamari, whose life takes a tragic turn when she and her three siblings are orphaned after both parents die from AIDS. Illustrating the agonising realities of AIDS, Tamari becomes mother, sister and provider, and desperately seeks alternate ways of earning a living from the minimal options available to a young desolate black girl in the village. Everyone’s Child was the first feature film to be directed by a black Zimbabwean woman; another of Dangarembga’s accolades demonstrating her courage and determination in telling stories of the unknown.
5. Studied Medicine at Cambridge University
Before unveiling her literary genius to the world, Tsitsi Dangarembga was actually studying Medicine at Cambridge University during the 1970s. Dangarembga then moved back to her newly liberated nation Zimbabwe in 1980. #truestory
If this has whet your appetite, you should watch Dangarembga’s TEDxHarare Talk: The Question Posed By My Cat.
In the month of July 2014, three friends came together to consummate their love for African literature. This auspicious encounter led to the birth of Afrikult. an online forum for people to connect, explore and expand knowledge on African literature and culture combined. Afrikult. aims to make African literature less exotic, less highbrow and more accessible. All materials on the site are cleverly presented in a simple language and in a bite-size format for easy readability. Check us at www.afrikult.com or follow us on facebook.com/afrikult, Twitter and Instagram @afrikult.