Most times, when Nigerians talk about African literature, they are usually referring to Nigerian literature but there are over 50 countries in Africa, various wonderful writers spread across the continent with books rich in the African culture. This monthly section will focus on different African writers, one writer at a time.
In this first edition of the African Writer’s Spotlight, we have Tsitsi Dangarembga, she is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker.
Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), was the first to be written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe, it was also recognized by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have changed the world.
Get to Know Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), on the 4th of February 1959. She spent part of her childhood in England where she started her education there, she later moved back to the town of Mutare to conclude her A-levels. She went on to study medicine at Cambridge University, but moved back again due to homesickness to study psychology at the University of Zimbabwe.
Tsitsi Dangarembga became a copywriter at a marketing agency, it was at this agency that she had her early writing experience, she wrote various plays, like The Lost of the Soil, she joined the theatre group Zambuko, and participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa and Mavambo.
“Reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved changed my life” – Tsitsi Dangarembga
Nervous Conditions (1988)
A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women’s rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the ‘nervousness’ of the ‘postcolonial’ conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.
The Book of Not: A Sequel To Nervous conditions (2006)
A sequel to Nervous Conditions, this is a powerful and engaging story about one young woman’s quest to redefine the personal and political forces that threaten to engulf her. As its title suggests, this is also a book about denial and unfulfilled expectations and about the theft of the self that remains one of colonialism’s most pernicious legacies. The novel disrupts any comfortable sense of closure to the dilemmas of colonial modernity explored in Nervous Conditions and as such is a fitting sequel.
This Mournable Body (2018)
Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds
herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that
include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s
boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every
turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh
humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her
daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
Other notable works: The Letter (short story), 1985. She No Longer Weeps (play)
“You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your perception…you see what is, where most people see what they expect.” – Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga