Tsitsi Dangarembga
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News - October 5, 2022

Tsitsi Dangarembga: 5 Things to Know About Zimbabwean Author Being Convicted Over Protest

Tsitsi Dangarembga, a renowned Zimbabwean author, was found guilty of inciting violence by staging a peaceful protest requesting political reform by the Zimbabwean Judiciary system. 

The activist was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence and fined 70,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($185). The six-month suspended jail term was based on the clause that she and her co-protester will not commit the same offence in the next five years.

Here are things you should know about her.

She studied medicine

Despite being a graduate of medicine, Dangarembga is a talented writer who has used her pen to address some of the societal issues in Zimbabwe and Africa. In 1977, she started her medical studies at the University of Cambridge, Sidney Sussex College.

However, she left three years after due to racism and isolation. Upon her return, she worked as a teacher before enrolling in the University of Zimbabwe to study medicine and psychology.

She wrote her first book at the University

While studying medicine, Tsitsi Dangarembga combined her study with harnessing her creative skills. She became a member of the University drama club. There, she wrote and directed numerous plays for the group.

Dangarembga also joined the Zambuko theatre group and participated in producing two plays. Despite her involvement in literal activities, she said, “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!.”

Hence, she wrote three plays: Lost of the Soil (1983), She No Longer Weeps, and The Third One. 

This period also married a shift in her literature text from English classics to African-American women writers.


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Her mother was the first black woman in Southern Rhodesia to get a degree

Tsitsi Dangarembga is not the only one who has attained milestones in her family. One such person is her mother. Upon her return from England to Zimbabwe with her family, her mother became the first black woman to attain a bachelor’s degree in Southern Rhodesia. With this qualification, her mother became a teacher while her father was a headmaster at Hartzell High School.

She is an activist

In 2020, the writer, playwright, filmmaker and activist was arrested in a two-person protest. Three days after her novel, This Mournable Body was nominated for the Booker Prize.

For carrying a placard and standing next to a highway, silently holding a placard protesting against the state corruption imprisonment of Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist, she slept in jail for a night. Despite observing the COVID-19 rules, they were charged with incitement to participate in public violence and breaching anti-coronavirus regulations,

The inhuman action and trampling of human rights were met with a local and international outcry against the government. For her bold stance as a writer, filmmaker and activist against the lousy government, she received the PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression in 2021.

She promotes African culture

Her books, film, and activism always promote African culture. She voices it using Zimbabwe as a point of contact. This has seen her books and film receive different awards.

Her 1988 novel Nervous Conditions became the first book published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe and earned her the prestigious Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989. In 2021, Dagarembga won the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

In 2005, her 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. The following year, Peretera Maneta won the UNESCO Children’s and Human Rights Award and the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

In 2002, she established the International Images Film Festival. She is the executive director of the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and the founding director of the Women’s Film Festival of Harare. She is also a founding member of the Institute for Creative Arts for Progress for Creative Arts in Africa (ICAPA).


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