Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Words of Wisdom

I have said it elsewhere, and I will say it again: I prefer getting my knowledge about nations and their cultures from creative writers. Art is able to capture aspects of life that the popular media has not learned to capture. I often trust that writers delve deeper (they better if they want to have a lasting impact) into the issues of human nature; they go even deeper than the philosopher. So it was with great pride that I read Tsitsi Dangarembga’s latest interview with Per Contra, which reveals some aspects of Dangarembga’s position on life in contemporary Zimbabwe. Below is an excerpt of the interview:

Dangarembga: Zimbabwe is a very complex issue. I think one of the most common misconceptions is that everything would work out in my country if President Mugabe were removed from office. This is a frighteningly simplistic and reductionist way of looking at a problem that has historical antecedents stretching back over a century. It is very unfortunate that some of our major opposition parties take this position because I think that such an over-simplification prevents the level of analysis we require to come up with solutions.To be fair to oppositions, though, it does too often seem as though the attainable goals are goals we set against each other. Nevertheless, there are a host of contextual factors that need to be put into the equation, and these contextual factors also include our own Zimbabwean pre-colonial, colonial, and neo-colonial idiosyncracies. These contextual factors determine a lot of people’s behaviours, including those behaviours that perpetrate abusive and repressive systems.

Another misconception in my view is that Zimbabweans are victims of one diabolical plot or another. I believe Zimbabweans are responsible for the current deterioration in the country due to crude egoism and materialism, and an inability to conceptualise and work towards a common national good.

Listen to this: “Crude egoism and materialism, and an inability to conceptualize and work towards a common national good.” Vaudze, mwana wamai! This is the dreadful question Valerie Tagwira raises as well towards the end of Uncertainty of Hope, when the narrator wonders whether the country will ever be able to return to a normal state even after the present situation has settled.

The Zimbabwean’s “inability to conceptualize and work towards  a common national good” may even translate to the inability to work towards a common “diasporic good” that seems evident out here. The only time we seem to have a serious natonal interest while abroad is when we do the materialistic Zim Expo chaos often controlled by the Western Unions and whatever other interests; and what’s up with the Miss Canada-Zimbabwe, Miss Britain-Zimbabwe and Miss USA-Zimbabwe craze that takes away from us focusing on issues that matter? Ah, at least we get to kick soccer balls and show off our diasporic acquistions at such gatherings!

Back to Dangarembga. Often very quiet in the literary world (Does she even do book signings?) she surfaces once in a while either with a new novel or the occasional interview, but when she does so, expect a lot of sense to come out her.  Her upcoming novel Bira seems promising, and a reader who will acquire all three of the books in the trilogy would have gotten quite a  treat.



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