Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga was honored with the prestigious Africa Freedom Prize in Johannesburg last Thursday. This esteemed award recognizes individuals who have exhibited exceptional courage and unwavering commitment to advancing the noble causes of freedom, democracy, and human rights across the African continent. 

Dangarembga has long held a revered position as one of Zimbabwe’s most beloved and highly acclaimed fiction writers. Her literary journey, which began with the celebrated debut novel “Nervous Conditions” in 1988, culminated in the 2020 Booker Prize shortlisting for her work “This Mournable Body.” 

Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a research fellow at the University of Oxford specializing in Zimbabwean literature, lauds Dangarembga’s enduring impact on the literary world. “Her most significant contribution,” Mushakavanhu explains, “is being the first Black, Zimbabwean woman writer to publish a novel in English. In that sense, she is a pioneer and a guiding light, to the extent that her book ‘Nervous Conditions’ is considered one of the finest African books of the 20th century.” 

It is for reasons like these that the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, an organization dedicated to promoting liberal politics and democracy worldwide, has chosen to bestow upon Dangarembga its highest accolade. Additionally, she was honored with the 2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression. 

Beyond her literary achievements, Dangarembga has made headlines for her activism. In the preceding year, she faced a conviction by a Zimbabwean court on charges of “inciting violence” following her participation in a peaceful protest alongside a friend.  

The protest consisted of the two women quietly holding placards by the roadside, advocating for political reform. However, this conviction was later overturned by a higher court earlier this year. 

When asked if she identifies herself as a political writer, Dangarembga responded, “I don’t conceive of myself as an activist writer. 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 the lives they are living and the challenges, and to possibly point to possible solutions. And I think when individuals are able to engage in that process, it leads to the health of the nation.” 

Since gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe was governed for nearly four decades by Robert Mugabe until his peaceful ousting in a coup in 2017. His successor from the same political party, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has struggled to address the nation’s economic woes and has taken measures to suppress dissent. The political opposition has disputed the fairness of the last elections held in August, with concerns raised by the Southern African Development Community mission sent to observe the polls. 

Notable previous recipients of the Africa Freedom Prize include the renowned Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

Danai Mupotsa, a senior lecturer in African literature at Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University, acknowledges the increasing recognition of female writers from the continent. She notes, “There’s definitely a particular kind of moment for African writers and African women writers, I think, in particularly the last 10 years.” 

Dangarembga, when asked about this trend, believes it signifies a shift in the publishing world, one that has “opened up” to publish more works by African women writers. 



SOURCE: voanews.com 

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