Image Via Women's Museum
|Born||February 4, 1959|
|Known for||Won the African Section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989|
|Notable work||Nervous Conditions|
Tsitsi Dangarembga is an award-winning one of the most accomplished writer, film producer from Zimbabwe. She is mostly known for her award -winning book Nervous Conditions and wrote a play, She No Longer Weeps on which the screenplay for the film Neria was based.
Tsitsi was born on February 4, 1959, in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, in the town of Mutoko a small town where her parents taught at the nearby mission school. Her mother, Susan Dangarembga, was the first black woman in Southern Rhodesia to obtain a bachelor's degree, and her father, Amon, would later become a school headmaster. Dangarembga lived in England from ages two to six while her parents pursued higher education. There, she recalled that she and her brother began to speak English "as a matter of course and forgot most of the Shona we had learnt." She returned to Rhodesia with her family in 1965, the year of the colony's Unilateral Declaration of Independence. In Rhodesia, she reacquired Shona, but considered English, the language of her schooling, her first language. She spent her early life in the United Kingdom before moving back to Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia.
In 1965, she moved with her family to Old Mutare, a Methodist mission near Umtali (now Mutare) where her father and mother took up respective positions as headmaster and teacher at Hartzell High School. Dangarembga, who had begun her education in England, enrolled at Hartzell Primary School, before going to boarding at the Marymount Mission convent school. She completed her A Levels at Arundel School, an elite, predominantly white girls' school in the capital, Salisbury (today Harare), and in 1977 went to the University of Cambridge to study medicine. There, she experienced racism and isolation and left after three years, returning in 1980 to Zimbabwe several months before the country's independence.
Dangarembga worked briefly as a teacher, before taking up studies in psychology at the University of Zimbabwe while working for two years as a copywriter at a marketing agency. She joined the university drama club, and wrote and directed several of the plays the group performed. She also became involved with the theatre group Zambuko, during which she participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa! and Mavambo. She later recalled, "There were simply no plays with roles for black women, or at least we didn't have access to them at the time. The writers in Zimbabwe were basically men at the time. And so I really didn't see that the situation would be remedied unless some women sat down and wrote something, so that's what I did!" She wrote three plays during this period: Lost of the Soil (1983), She No Longer Weeps, and The Third One. During these years, she also began reading works by African American women writers and contemporary African literature, a shift from the English classics she had grown up reading.
She completed part of her education in Mutare at Hartzell Secondary School. Dangarembga studied medicine at Cambridge University but returned home soon after Zimbabwe was internationally recognised in 1980. She took up psychology at the University of Zimbabwe and became a member of a drama group. She then continued her education later in Berlin at the German Film and Television Academy, where she studied film direction and produced several film productions, including a documentary for German television.
The first book written by Dangarembga was titled The Letter which she published in 1985. That same year, Dangarembga's short story The Letter won second place in a writing competition arranged by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and was published in Sweden in the anthology Whispering Land. She also released a play called "She No Longer Weeps", which she wrote during her university years and was published in Harare. Her break came in 1988 when she published her first novel Nervous Conditions which was published in the United Kingdom and a year later in the United States and went on to propel her to international acclaim. She wrote it in 1985, but experienced difficulties getting it published; rejected by four Zimbabwean publishers, she eventually found a willing publisher in the London-based Women's Press.
Nervous Conditions, the first novel written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe, received domestic and international acclaim, and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Africa region) in 1989. Her work is included in the 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby. Nervous Conditions is considered one of the best African novels ever written, and was included on the BBC's 2018 list of top 100 books that have shaped the world.
Tsitsi also produced the movie Everyone's Child being one of her most celebrated. It was also the first feature film to be directed by a black Zimbabwean woman. Following up on the success of Nervous Conditions, she went on to publish a sequel to the novel in 2006, titled "Book of Not". The book went on to become a trilogy with the publication of Chronicle of an Indomitable Daughter in 2013.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is one of the important writers working in the last fifty years. Her debut novel Nervous Conditions (1988) was hailed by Doris Lessing as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century and was included in the BBC’s 2018 list of the 100 books that shaped the world. The Book of Not (2006) and This Mournable Body (2018) complete the Tambudzai Trilogy with the latter being shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
In 1989, Dangarembga went to Germany to study film direction at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. She produced a number of films while in Berlin, including a documentary aired on German television. In 1992, she founded Nyerai Films, a production company based in Harare. She wrote the story for the 1993 film Neria, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history. Her 1996 film Everyone's Child, the first feature film directed by a black Zimbabwean woman, was shown internationally, including at the Dublin International Film Festival. The film, shot on location in Harare and Domboshava, follows the tragic stories of four siblings after their parents die of AIDS.
In 2000, Dangarembga moved back to Zimbabwe with her family, and continued her work with Nyerai Films. In 2002, she founded the International Images Film Festival. Her 2005 film Kare Kare Zvako won the Short Film Award and Golden Dhow at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and the African Short Film Award at the Milan Film Festival. Her 2006 film Peretera Maneta received the UNESCO Children's and Human Rights Award and won the Zanzibar International Film Festival. She is the executive director of the organization Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and the founding director of the Women's Film Festival of Harare. As of 2010, she has also served on the board of the Zimbabwe College of Music for five years, including two years as chair.
She was a judge for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature. In 2016, she was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center for their Artists in Residency program. Her third novel, This Mournable Body, a sequel to The Book of Not and Nervous Conditions, was published in 2018 by Graywolf Press in the US, and in the UK by Faber and Faber in 2020, described by Alexandra Fuller in The New York Times as "another masterpiece" and by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma in The Guardian as "magnificent ... another classic" and shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.
- The Third One (play)
- Lost of the Soil (play): 1983
- The Letter (short story): 1985, published in Whispering Land
- She No Longer Weeps: 1987
- Nervous Conditions: 1988, ISBN 9781919772288
- The Book of Not (Sequel to Nervous Conditions): 2006, ISBN 9780954702373
- Chronicle of an Indomitable Daughter (Trilogy to Nervous Conditions): 2013
- This Mournable Body: 2018, ISBN 9781555978129
- Neria (1993) (story writing)
- The Great Beauty Conspiracy (1994)
- Passport to Kill (1994)
- Schwarzmarkt (1995)
- Everyone's Child (1996)
- The Puppeteer (1996)
- Zimbabwe Birds, with Olaf Koschke (1988)
- On the Border (2000)
- Hard Earth – Land Rights in Zimbabwe (2001)
- Ivory (2001)
- Elephant People (2002)
- Mother’s Day (2004)
- High Hopes (2004)
- At the Water (2005)
- Growing Stronger (2005)
- Kare Kare Zvako (2005)
- Peretera Maneta (2006)
- The Sharing Day (2008)
- I Want a Wedding Dress (2010)
- Ungochani (2010)
- Nyami Nyami Amaji Abulozi (2011
Awards & Achievements
A former medical and psychology student, Tsitsi Dangarembga is the first black Zimbabwean woman to direct a feature film and is the author of the prize-winning novel Nervous Conditions. She has written in several genres, including a work of short fiction, a novel, a stage play, and two screenplays. The novel, Nervous Conditions, was first published in Zimbabwe in 1987, but soon thereafter was also issued in England and the United States. In 1989, it won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Prior to this award, Dangarembga had won the second prize in a short story competition of the Swedish aid-organization, SIDA. Moreover, the novel Nervous Conditions was named as one of the top 100 books that have changed the world.
While studying at the German Film and Television Academy, Dangarembga produced films including a documentary for German television. She wrote and directed the feature film Everyone’s Child, which was released in 1996.
- In 2006, The Independent named Dangarembga one of the fifty greatest artists shaping the African Continent.
- In May 2016, Dangarembga was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center for their 2015 Artists in Residency Programme.
Appointed University of East Anglia Chair of Creative Writing (Africa)
On 29 September 2020, Tsitsi Dangarembga was appointed the University of East Anglia International Chair of Creative Writing (Africa). The University of East Anglia clearly recognised the pull of one of the most respected names in African Letters as they appointed the Zimbabwean the International Chair of Creative Writing (Africa). This new position will be offered to four more prominent writers over the next five years from the Asia, Australasia, the Americas and the Middle East, each with a year-long remit to find, nurture and promote new voices from that region. She will be supported by the university’s Creative Writing department to deliver events, masterclasses and workshops. The International Chair initiative will be complemented by Global Voices scholarships, offering 50 fully paid places on the university’s competitive MA course over five years.
Tsitsi Dangarembga said: “I am honoured to be appointed International Chair of Creative Writing (Africa) at UEA. This position enables me to continue to pursue my long-time passion of raising awareness concerning the importance of creative writing in society in southern Africa. It is a welcome opportunity for me and emerging African writers to connect with the highly distinguished UEA programme in Creative Writing.”
Professor Jean McNeil, International co-ordinator for Literature, Drama and Creative Writer and responsible for the ICCW programme, said: “We are incredibly excited and gratified to appoint Tsitsi Dangarembga to this position. Tsitsi is one of Africa’s best-known and respected writers. She is also a filmmaker, mentor to writers and filmmakers, and advocate for the arts. We also applaud that her novel This Mournable Body (Faber, 2020) has been shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.”
Nervous Conditions was the first novel to be published in English by a black Zimbabwean woman.
She was arrested on 31 July 2020 for holding placards denouncing corruption by senior government officials. She was granted ZWL$5,000 bail by a Harare Magistrate at the Harare Magistrate Court on 1 August 2020 together with Julie Barnes. The bail conditions include surrendering her passport and reporting to the nearest police station once a week.
- Barbara Fister Third World Women's Literatures: A Dictionary and Guide to Materials in English, Greenwood, Published: No Date Given, Retrieved: July 14, 2015
- Tsitsi Dangarembga Biography of Tsitsi Dangarembga, GradeSaver, Published: No Date Given, Retrieved: July 14, 2015
- , Prabook, Retrieved: 7 July 2020
- , James Murua's Literary, Published: 30 September, 2020, Accessed: 1 October, 2020
- Tendai Biti, , Twitter, Published: 1 August, 2020, Accessed: 1 August, 2020