Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga, November 2006
Tsitsi Dangarembga, November 2006
Born (1959-02-04) 4 February 1959 (age 62)
Mutoko, Southern Rhodesia
OccupationWriter and filmmaker
EducationCambridge University
University of Zimbabwe
German Film and Television Academy Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin
Notable worksNervous Conditions (1988)
The Book of Not (2006)
This Mournable Body (2018)
Notable awardsCommonwealth Writers' Prize, Africa section, 1989
SpouseOlaf Koschke
ChildrenTonderai, Chadamoyo and Masimba

Tsitsi Dangarembga (born 4 February 1959) is a Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), which was the first to be published in English by a Black woman from Zimbabwe, was named by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world.[1] In 2020, her novel This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Dangarembga was born on 4 February 1959 in Mutoko, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a small town where her parents taught at the nearby mission school.[3][4][5][6] Her mother, Susan Dangarembga, was the first black woman in Southern Rhodesia to obtain a bachelor's degree,[7] and her father, Amon, would later become a school headmaster.[8][9] Dangarembga lived in England from ages two to six while her parents pursued higher education.[3][4][5][6][10] 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."[10] She returned to Rhodesia with her family in 1965, the year of the colony's Unilateral Declaration of Independence.[3][4][6] In Rhodesia, she reacquired Shona, but considered English, the language of her schooling, her first language.[10]

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.[3][4][5][8] Dangarembga, who had begun her education in England, enrolled at Hartzell Primary School, before going to board at the Marymount Mission convent school.[3][5][6] She completed her A Levels at Arundel School, an elite, predominantly white girls' school in the capital, Salisbury (today Harare),[5] and in 1977 went to the University of Cambridge to study medicine.[3][4][6][10] There, she experienced racism and isolation and left after three years, returning in 1980 to Zimbabwe several months before the country's independence.[3][4][6][10]

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.[3][4][6][8][10] She joined the university drama club, and wrote and directed several of the plays the group performed.[3][4][6][10] She also became involved with the theatre group Zambuko, during which she participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa! and Mavambo.[4] 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!"[3][10] She wrote three plays during this period: Lost of the Soil (1983), She No Longer Weeps, and The Third One.[3][4][6][10] 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.[3]


In 1985, 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.[3][4] In 1987, her play She No Longer Weeps, which she wrote during her university years, was published in Harare.[4][11] Her first novel, Nervous Conditions, was published in 1988 in the United Kingdom, and a year later in the United States.[3][4][6][10] 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.[6][10] 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.[3][4][6][10][12] Her work is included in the 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.[13] Nervous Conditions is considered one of the best African novels ever written,[14] and was included on the BBC's 2018 list of top 100 books that have shaped the world.[15]

In 1989, Dangarembga went to Germany to study film direction at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin.[3][4][6] She produced a number of films while in Berlin, including a documentary aired on German television.[4] In 1992, she founded Nyerai Films, a production company based in Harare.[3] She wrote the story for the 1993 film Neria, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history.[16] 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.[3][4] The film, shot on location in Harare and Domboshava, follows the tragic stories of four siblings after their parents die of AIDS.[4]

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.[17] 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.[3] Her 2006 film Peretera Maneta received the UNESCO Children's and Human Rights Award and won the Zanzibar International Film Festival.[3] She is the executive director of the organization Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and the founding director of the Women's Film Festival of Harare.[18] As of 2010, she has also served on the board of the Zimbabwe College of Music for five years, including two years as chair.[3][8]

Asked about her lack of writing since Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga explained in 2004, "firstly, the novel was published only after I had turned to film as a medium; secondly, Virginia Woolf's shrewd observation that a woman needs £500 and a room of her own in order to write is entirely valid. Incidentally, I am moving and hope that, for the first time since Nervous Conditions, I shall have a room of my own. I'll try to ignore the bit about £500."[19] Indeed, two years later in 2006, she published her second novel, The Book of Not, a sequel to Nervous Conditions.[4] She also became involved in politics, and in 2010 was named education secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change political party led by Arthur Mutambara.[3][8] She cited her background coming from a family of educators, her brief stint as a teacher, and her "practical, if not formal," involvement in the education sector as preparing her for the role.[8] She completed doctoral studies in African studies at Humboldt University of Berlin, and wrote her PhD thesis on the reception of African film.[3][8]

She was a judge for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature.[20] In 2016, she was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center for their Artists in Residency program.[21] 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"[12] and by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma in The Guardian as "magnificent ... another classic"[22] This Mournable Body was one of the six novels shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, chosen from 162 submissions.[23][24]

In 2019, Dangarembga was announced as a finalist for the St. Francis College Literary Prize, a biennial award recognizing outstanding fiction by writers in the middle stages of their careers.[25]

She was arrested on 31 July 2020 in Harare, Zimbabwe ahead of anti-corruption protests.[26] Later that year she was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.[27]

Dangarembga won the 2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression, given annually since 2005 to honour writers who continue working despite being persecuted for their writing.[28][29][30]

In June 2021, it was announced that Dangarembga would be the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Peace Prize awarded by the German book publishers and book sellers association.[31]

List of works[edit]

Written works[edit]

  • The Third One (play)
  • Lost of the Soil (play), 1983
  • "The Letter" (short story), 1985, published in Whispering Land
  • She No Longer Weeps (play), 1987
  • Nervous Conditions, 1988, ISBN 9781919772288
  • The Book of Not, 2006, ISBN 9780954702373
  • 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)


  1. ^ "The 100 stories that shaped the world". BBC. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  2. ^ Flood, Alison; Cain, Sian (15 September 2020). "Most diverse Booker prize shortlist ever as Hilary Mantel misses out". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Know Your Author: Dangarembga". The Herald. 20 May 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Grady, Rebecca (10 June 2014) [1997]. "Dangarembga, Tsitsi". Postcolonial Studies. Emory University. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Khulumani. Women's Action Group. 1988. p. 92.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m George, Rosemary Marangoly; Scott, Helen (Spring 1993). "An Interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga". Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 26 (3): 309–319. doi:10.2307/1345839. JSTOR 1345839.
  7. ^ Mutambara, Arthur G. O. (15 October 2017). "An ode to Susan Dangarembga". The Sunday Mail. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Madhomu, Betha (21 June 2010). "Dangarembga's new venture". News24. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  9. ^ "President Sends Condolences to Bakasa, Dangarembga Families". The Herald. 7 September 2002. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Agatucci, Cora (2 January 2010). "African Authors: Tsitsi Dangarembga & Nervous Conditions". Central Oregon Community College. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Book Reviews: She No Longer Weeps by Tsitsi Dangaremgba", Eduzim.
  12. ^ a b Fuller, Alexandra (30 August 2018). "30 Years After Her Acclaimed Debut, a Zimbabwean Novelist Returns to Her Heroine in a Sequel". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  13. ^ Odhiambo, Tom (17 January 2020). "'New Daughters of Africa' is a must read for aspiring young women writers". Daily Nation.
  14. ^ "Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century: An initiative of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair". Columbia University Libraries – African Studies Resources. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  15. ^ Mananavire, Bridget (28 May 2018). "Tsitsi Dangarembga thrilled as 'Nervous Conditions' makes it to the top 100 books". Daily News Zimbabwe. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  16. ^ LEZ (7 September 2013), "From Neria to Zollywood: The State of Zimbabwean Film", eZimbabwe.
  17. ^ "IIFF 2018 – Aug 24th to 31st in Harare!". www.icapatrust.org. Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa (ICAPA). Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  18. ^ "About the Director Tsitsi Dangarembga". African Film Festival. 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Interview with the Author" (p. 212, Nervous Conditions, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd, 2004).
  20. ^ "2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature Judging Panel out". James Murua's Literary Blog. 12 July 2014.
  21. ^ Koinange, Wanjiru (11 May 2016), "Announcing the Bellagio Center Residency Award Winners", Africa Centre.
  22. ^ Tshuma, Novuyo Rosa (24 January 2020). "This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga review – a sublime sequel", The Guardian.
  23. ^ "The 2002 Shortlist". The Booker Prize. September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  24. ^ Flyn, Cal. "The Best Fiction of 2020: The Booker Prize Shortlist recommended by Margaret Busby". Five Books. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  25. ^ Schmerl, Leah (15 August 2019), "St. Francis College Announces Finalists for the Biennial $50,000 SFC Literary Prize", St. Francis College.
  26. ^ Flood, Alison (31 July 2020). "Booker prize-longlisted author Tsitsi Dangarembga arrested in Zimbabwe". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  27. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2020: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. 23 November 2020. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Tsitsi Dangarembga wins the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression 2021". PEN International. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  29. ^ Saka, Rasheeda (13 January 2021). "Today, Tsitsi Dangarembga was awarded the 2021 PEN Award for Freedom of Expression". LitHub. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Tsitsi Dangarembga wins PEN Award for Freedom of Expression 2021". James Murua's Literary Blog. 18 January 2021. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  31. ^ "Friedenspreis 2021 Tsitsi Dangarembga" (in German). Retrieved 21 June 2021.

External links[edit]