One of the most celebrated writers and filmmakers in Zimbabwe is Tsitsi Dangarembga. She has written many novels, and has directed some of the most popular movies in Zimbabwe.
Tsitsi Dangarembga was born on 4 February 1959 in Bulawayo in the then Rhodesia. She spent part of her childhood in England, but she returned to Zimbabwe and completed her A-Levels at Hartzell High School in Mutare (then Umtali). She completed a medicine degree with Cambridge University but again returned home soon after Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980.
She took up psychology at the University of Zimbabwe while holding down a two-year job 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.
In 1985, Tsitsi Dangarembga published a short story in Sweden titled The Letter. In 1987, she published the play She Does Not Weep in Harare. Her first taste of success came when she was just aged 25, and she wrote the famous novel Nervous Conditions. The book went on to win the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989 and is considered one of the twelve best African novels ever written.
Dangarembga continued her education later in Berlin at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie, 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 became the first black woman in Zimbabwe to direct a full movie called Everyone’s Child in 1996. 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. It marked her prowess as both a writer and a filmmaker.
Besides directing, she also wrote the story for the famous movie Neria in 1993, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwe. 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.
Dangarembga is a perfect example of the many potentials and talents that Zimbabwean women have. It does not only affect the women, but everyone in the country. Her contribution towards the movement of the arts sector in Zimbabwe is of unparalleled magnitude.