In Search of Tsitsi Dangarembga

You know when you run a blog, you cannot avoid checking the performance statistics, to see if what you are writing is being read at all. WordPress, the platform for this website, has a feature called “Search Engine Terms’, which tells you what words people searched in order to end up viewing your posts. Nearly daily, the visitors to Moments in Literature come through searches of Tsitsi Dangarembga, using the following terms: bira Dangarembga, interviews with Tsitsi Dangarembga, Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Zimbabwean literature Dangarembga, Dangarembga new excerpt, and many others.

So people are looking for Dangarembga, people are talking. And they have reasons to. First, the world is leaning towards focusing on Zimbabwean literature, what with all the drama that the country has been going through. Early next year the world of reading will be greeted with two books by Petina Gappah, which promise to be huge successes (Gappah is a good writer), and there is likely to be hightened interest in the literature of Zimbabwe in general. 

Perhaps, the interest in Dangarembga is a reflection of what’s on the minds of many readers (I am assuming it’s not one person visiting my blog through numerous, if not obsessive, searches for Dangarembga’s works); it is a reflection of the fact that there is renewed interest in her works, or in finding clues about Zimbabwe in her novels.

Of course, Dangarembga recently published the much-awaited-for sequel to Nervous Conditions, which is entitled The Book of Not.   I am reading the book, which is adding layers of meaning to the character of Tambu. Nyasha has been silenced, the younger sister has her legs blown off by a landmine in chapter one, and , as we know, Nhamo is history.  It’s as if Dangarembga was clearing the ground for the story of Tambu to mature, undisturbed ( although it’s disturbed), undistracted (athough it’s distracted). Reading this story leads to a revisionary look at Zimbabwe, connecting the actions of the comrades during the 70s war and the now-old veterans who have been charged of causing much violence in tumultous Zimbabwe. When you look at war through the lens of Dangarembga’s books, you have the advantage of concluding that the revolution sowed the seeds of violence just as it sought freedom. I was little, but I remember that in addition to being everyone’s “brothers”, the comrades were no-nonsense discipliners, shooting village elders if they were found guilty of selling out. Old women and men were charged of witchcraft and were thrashed, activities that branded them for life (because even ten years after independence, village beatings of the witches the war had uncovered continued, for reasons ranging from a former mujubha’s wife miscarrying to reasons for rains falling in Chivi but not in Mazvihwa.) The Book of Not takes me to that world, and helps me make the connection of this culture of violence and repression that was build in the idea for the fight for independence.

Perhaps, that’s why everyone is now looking for Dangarembga, to see a deeper analysis of the Zimbabwean situation as it is prefigured, as well as analyzed, in the novels? Perhaps, assuming it’s indeed everyone that’s searching for Dangarembga.

I too have been looking for Dangarembga, some way of contacting her, an email address, etc, because I had a whole class seeking to ask her some questions about this issue of Nhamo dying to give room for Tambu to become…, or was it something to do with why she took very long to write the sequel. I too have been searching, and here is another reason: I have begun work on a story that features Tambu, but my Tambu will die much sooner than anticipated, and Nhamo, oh, he will be alive, perhaps briefly becoming a soldier (not comrade), and then growing up to leave Zimbabwe for South Africa or some such “overseas”. I want us new Zimbawean writers to start creating characters that communicate with the iconic characters of our literature.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has begun to reinterpret characters out of Things Fall Apart, giving them new life.

So anyway, people make frequent Dangarembga searches that point them to this blog, which, I think, is phenomenal.

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