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Tsitsi Dangarembga (born 4 February 1959) is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker. Her first novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), which was the first to be written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe, was named as one of the top 100 books that have changed the world.

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga, November 2006
Tsitsi Dangarembga, November 2006
Born (1959-02-04) 4 February 1959 (age 60)
Bulawayo, Rhodesia
EducationCambridge University,
University of Zimbabwe,
German Film and Television Academy Berlin
GenreNovels, Film
Notable worksNervous Conditions (1988); The Book of Not (2006)
Notable awardsCommonwealth Writers Prize finalist, 1989


Early lifeEdit

Dangarembga was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), on 4 February 1959, but spent part of her childhood in England.[1] She began her education in England, but later attended Hartzell High School, a missionary school in the Rhodesian town of Umtali (now Mutare). She later studied medicine at Cambridge University, where she experienced racism and isolation. Dangarembga left Cambridge and returned to Zimbabwe a few months before the country officially declared its independence.[2]

She studied psychology at the University of Zimbabwe while working for two years as a copywriter at a marketing agency. This early writing experience gave her an avenue for expression: she wrote numerous plays, including The Lost of the Soil, and then joined the theatre group Zambuko. She participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa and Mavambo.[1]


In 1985, Dangarembga published a short story in Sweden called "The Letter". In 1987, she published the play She Does Not Weep in Harare. At the age of 25, she had her first taste of success with her novel Nervous Conditions, published in 1988. It was the first novel in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe.[3] The novel won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1989 and is considered one of the twelve best African novels ever written.[4] In May, 2018, the BBC named Nervous Conditions as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world. Her novel was 66th book on the list.[5]

Asked about her subsequent prose drought, she explained: "There have been two major reasons for my not having worked on prose since Nervous Conditions: 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."[6]

Dangarembga continued her education later in Berlin at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin, where she studied film direction and produced several film productions, including a documentary for German television. She also made the film Everyone's Child, shown worldwide including at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Dangarembga returned to Zimbabwe with her family in 2000 to work at Nuyerai Films, the film production company she founded in Harare. She is also the executive director of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and is the founding director of the Women’s Film Festival of Harare.[7] She founded the International Images Film Festival in 2002 in response to the proliferation of beauty contests at that time, to provide diverse narratives by and about women.[8]

In 2011, she orated a TEDx talk at Harare called "The question posed by my cat".[9]

In May 2016, she was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center for their 2015 Artists in Residency Programme.[10]

Selected worksEdit

Nervous Conditions (1988)Edit

As a novelist, Dangarembga made her debut with Nervous Conditions, a partially autobiographical work which appeared in Great Britain in 1988 (published by the women's Press in London) and the next year in the United States. Her work appears in Daughters of Africa (ed. Margaret Busby, 1992). A sequel to Nervous Conditions, entitled The Book of Not, was published in 2006.

Neria (1993)Edit

Dangarembga wrote the story for the film Neria (1993), which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history.[11] The protagonist is a widowed woman, whose brother-in-law abuses traditional customs to control her assets for his own benefit. Neria loses her material possessions and her child, but gets then help from her female friend (played by Kubi Indi) against her late husband's family. The title song is by Oliver Mtukudzi, who also appears in the film.

Everyone's Child (1996)Edit

In 1996, Dangarembga directed the film Everyone's Child. It was the first feature film directed by a black Zimbabwean woman. The story followed the tragic fates of four siblings, after their parents die of AIDS. The soundtrack featured songs by Zimbabwe's most popular musicians, including Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata and Andy Brown.

Growing Stronger (2005)Edit

Dangarembga's documentary profiles two courageous Zimbabwean women living with HIV "from opposite ends of the socioeconomic ladder who defy the stereotypical image of HIV infection and AIDS, and use their first hand experiences with the disease as a forum for public education and awareness".[12]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • "The Letter" (short story), 1985.
  • She No Longer Weeps, 1987.
  • Nervous Conditions, London: The Women's Press, 1988; Banbury: Ayebia Clarke, 2004. ISBN 9781919772288, OCLC 813537495
  • The Book of Not: A Sequel to Nervous Conditions, Ayebia Clarke, 2006. ISBN 9780954702373, OCLC 642398845
  • This Mournable Body, Graywolf Press, 2018. ISBN 9781555978129, OCLC 1043459243[13]


  • The Great Beauty Conspiracy, (1994)
  • Passport to Kill, (1994)
  • Schwarzmarkt, (1995)
  • Everyone’s Child, (1995)
  • The Puppeteer, (1996)
  • Zimbabwe Birds, (1998 –with Olaf Koschke)
  • 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)
  • The Sharing Day (2008)
  • I Want a Wedding Dress, (2010)
  • Ungochani, (2010)
  • Nyami Nyami Amaji Abulozi, (2011).


  1. ^ a b Rubert, Steven C. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe. London: The Scarecrow Press. p. 74. ISBN 0810834715.
  2. ^ George, Rosemary Marangoly, et al. “An Interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 26, no. 3, 1993, pp. 309–319. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  3. ^ "Africa's women speak out". 26 March 2005. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "Tsitsi Dangarembga thrilled as 'Nervous Conditions' makes it to the top 100 books". Daily News Zimbabwe. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Interview with the Author" (p. 212, Nervous Conditions, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd, 2004).
  7. ^ "About the Director Tsitsi Dangarembga". African Film Festival. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  8. ^ "IIFF 2018 -Aug 24th to 31st in Harare!". Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  9. ^ "TEDxHarare – Tsitsi Dangarembga – The question Posed by My Cat", YouTube.
  10. ^ Wanjiru Koinange, "Announcing the Bellagio Center Residency Award Winners", Africa Centre, 11 May 2016.
  11. ^ "From Neria to Zollywood: The State of Zimbabwean Film", eZimbabwe, 7 September 2013.
  12. ^ "NYAFF Short Films: Women of Zimbabwe". Film Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  13. ^ "30 Years After Her Acclaimed Debut, a Zimbabwean Novelist Returns to Her Heroine in a Sequel". Retrieved 5 September 2018.

External linksEdit