Panashe Chigumadzi is an essayist and novelist, born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa. Her debut novel Sweet Medicine (Blackbird Books, 2015) won the 2016 K. Sello Duiker Literary Award. Her second book, These Bones Will Rise Again, a reflection on Robert Mugabe’s ouster, was published in June 2018 by the Indigo Press. A columnist for The New York Times, and contributing editor of the Johannesburg Review of Books, her work has featured in titles including The Guardian, Chimurenga, Africa is A Country, Transition, Washington Post and Die Ziet.
Prior to this, Panashe Chigumadzi was the founding editor of Vanguard Magazine, a platform for young black women coming of age in post-apartheid South Africa. She gained media experience both as a journalist for CNBC Africa and columnist for Forbes Woman Africa, and as a project executive for the Africa Business News Group.
In 2015, Panashe Chigumadzi was a Ruth First Fellow, delivering the annual memorial lecture in honour of the anti-apartheid activist. The following year Chigumadzi, was the curator of Soweto’s inaugural Abantu Book Festival, South Africa’s most important gathering for black readers and writers.
She studied at University of the Witwatersrand; while there she was part of the "Transform Wits Movement", which called for significant changes to southern Africa's universities. As part of her doctoral study at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, she has written about the Rhodes Must Fall protests she witnessed at University of the Witwatersrand.
Chigumadzi has published her writing in a variety of media. She is a columnist for The Guardian, Die Zeit, The Washington Post, New York Review of Books and Chimurenga. She was a founder of VANGUARD, a magazine designed to give space to young, black South African women interested in how queer identities, pan-Africanism and Black Consciousness intersect. At the start of her career, Chigumadzi worked as a reporter for CNBC Africa.
Chigumadzi draws on the history of Zimbabwe in her work, by exploring national and personal histories and identities. Her 2017 narrative essay These Bones Will Rise Again drew on Shona perspectives to explore the concept of the 'Mothers of the Nation' and interrogating perceptions of Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana in Zimbabwe.
While studying and writing the legacies of Zimbabwe's struggle for independence, Chigumadzi also writes about modern identities for southern Africans. She has written on the complexities of identity dismantling the notion of a colourblind, post-Apartheid South Africa, through a reclamation of the term "coconut". She is outspoken about the need for decolonisation at national and at personal levels. Her 2019 essay "Why I'm No Longer Talking to Nigerians About Race" discussed her experience at the Aké Arts and Book Festival on a panel discussing whether Black Lives Matter has relevance in Africa. Chigumadzi argued that, yes, in a continent with such different experiences of racialisation under colonialism, it did.
In 2015, Chigumadzi was Programme Curator of the first Abantu Book Festival. In addition to her writing on literature and literary criticism, she regularly appears on BBC World Service. She is also a contributor to the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
- These Bones Will Rise Again (Indigo Books, 2017) – a mixture of memoir and historical essay exploring nation-building in Zimbabwe.
- Sweet Medicine (Blackbird Books, 2015) – a novel exploring the 2008 economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
- Beautiful Hair for Landless People (forthcoming)
- K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award in 2016 for Sweet Medicine
- Ruth First Journalism Fellowship, 2015
Chigumadzi's work has been studied widely, particularly within post-colonial studies. Her writing on the use of charms in Sweet Medicine led to further studies on healthcare and traditional practices in Zimbabwe. Her focus on strong female characters living in economic precarity has been explored in terms of their religious beliefs and the reflection they may give to contemporary life.
- , The Indigo Press, Accessed: 4 August, 2020