Tsitsi Dangarembga honoured with Africa Freedom Prize in Johannesburg
Photo credit: Cynthia R. Matonhodze for The New York Times
Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga was presented with the Africa Freedom Prize, an accolade reserved for those who have demonstrated exceptional courage and dedication to advancing freedom, democracy and human rights across the African continent.
Dangarembga, widely celebrated for her literary contributions, has consistently captivated readers with her powerful narratives. Her journey in the world of literature commenced with the acclaimed debut novel Nervous Conditions in 1988, a work that has firmly established her as a literary luminary. Furthermore, her 2020 masterpiece, This Mournable Body, even garnered a prestigious Booker Prize nomination.
Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a distinguished researcher at the University of Oxford, specialising in Zimbabwean literature, praised Dangarembga’s pioneering role.
He stated, “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 that her book, Nervous Conditions, is considered one of the best African books of the 20th century.”
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, an organisation dedicated to promoting liberal politics and democracy worldwide, recognised Dangarembga’s monumental impact on African literature and democracy. She now joins the esteemed list of recipients of their highest honour. Dangarembga’s commitment to freedom of expression also earned her the 2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression.
Beyond her literary achievements, Dangarembga has made headlines for her unwavering political activism. In a notable incident, she and a friend were convicted of “inciting violence” during a peaceful protest in Zimbabwe, where they silently held placards advocating for political reform. Fortunately, this conviction was overturned by a higher court earlier this year.
When asked about her identity 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.”