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Nervous Conditions | Study Guide

Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Tsitsi Dangarembga | Biography



Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on February 14, 1959. At age two, she moved with her family to England and started school in the British system. Four years later the family moved back to Rhodesia, where Dangarembga completed her early education at a Christian mission school. Upon graduation, she returned to England to study medicine at Cambridge. Feeling isolated and homesick, Dangarembga returned to Rhodesia in 1980, just before the country gained its independence from Great Britain and became Zimbabwe. After becoming concerned over a lack of female African film directors, Dangarembga moved to Berlin, Germany, to study film at the Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin. In 2008 Dangarembga moved from Germany back to Zimbabwe to give her children the opportunity to connect with their African roots.

Artistic Career

While studying psychology in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, Dangarembga joined a theater club. When the club was looking for new works to perform, Dangarembga decided to write them herself. Some of her works included The Lost of the Soil (1983) and She No Longer Weeps (1987), which chronicles a black female college student's efforts to escape the confines of Zimbabwean patriarchy‚ÄĒthemes later re-explored in her Tambu trilogy, which begins with Nervous Conditions. Dangarembga's first feature-length film, Everyone's Child, about four siblings orphaned after their parents die from AIDS, debuted in 1996. Dangarembga has been a founding force in shaping many artistic communities in her home country, including the Zimbabwe Association of Community Theatre, the Women's Action Group, and the Zimbabwe Women Writers.

Nervous Conditions

Dangarembga's first critical success came with the publication of her debut novel, Nervous Conditions. The novel was the first to be published in English by a black female writer from Zimbabwe. The sequel, The Book of Not, was published in 2006, followed by the final book in the trilogy, Chronicle of an Indomitable Daughter, in 2013. Dangarembga has said she wrote Nervous Conditions after returning to a Rhodesia struggling under colonial rule. She was concerned that black students were taught an intangible history removed from African roots, and they were isolated from their native languages. Dangarembga felt "the need for an African literature that [she] could read and identify with." Her trilogy, along with her film career, led British online newspaper The Independent to name Dangarembga "one of the fifty greatest artists shaping the African continent."

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