T. Danarembga at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021. Credit: Frank Röth - Photo: 2023

A German Foundation Taps Zimbabwe Writer Citing ‘Remarkable Courage’

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 9 October 2023 (IDN) — Highly regarded Zimbabwe author Tsitsi Dangaarembga has been tapped for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom award, given to individuals with “remarkable courage and dedication” and political activism.

Ms. Dangarembga received the prize this week in Johannesburg.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a research fellow at the University of Oxford who specializes in Zimbabwean literature, said Dangarembga has a place in the modern canon.

“Her most important contribution is being the first Black Zimbabwean woman writer to publish a novel in English. In that sense, she is a pioneer and a leading light, so much so that her book, “Nervous Conditions,” is considered one of the best African books of the 20th century,” said Mushakavanhu. 

Praised for her first novel, “Nervous Conditions,” in 1988, she next wrote “The Book of Not,” and drew the most attention for “This Mournable Body” which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020. 

In this book, her character is foiled, most often by the noxious combination of racism and capitalist accumulation and the distorted relations it produces between the novels’ characters, writes Ismail Muhammad. 

She also received the 2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression. 

Aside from her writing, Dangarembga has made headlines for her political activism. The 64-year-old was convicted by a Zimbabwean court last year of “inciting violence” after staging a peaceful protest with a friend during which the two women stood quietly on a roadside holding placards calling for political reform. That conviction was overturned earlier this year by a higher court. 

“I don’t conceive of myself as an activist writer,” she said in a recent interview. “I conceive of myself as a person who has a story to tell, and my story has an intention. My intention is to tell stories in which Zimbabweans can see themselves reflected. And I think that is important for the well-being of the individual — to understand the complexities of their lives and the challenges, and to possibly point to possible solutions.  

“When individuals are able to engage in that process, it leads to the health of the nation.”

Among the previous winners of the Africa Freedom Prize is Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Danai Mupotsa, a senior lecturer in African literature at Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University, notes that female writers from the continent have been receiving more attention and accolades lately.

What it indicates, maintains Dangarembga, is the publishing world has “’shifted to open up” and is publishing more work by African woman writers. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: T. Danarembga at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021. Credit: Frank Röth

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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