Tsitsi Dangarembga is one of the most accomplished authors from Zimbabwe who also dabbles as a playwright and filmmaker.
Here is a comprehensive biography of the award-winning novelist that covers everything from her background and parents, her education, career, husband, and children, and her controversy.
Tsitsi Dangarembga's background
Tsistsi Dangarembga was born on the 4th of February 1959 in Mutoko, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where her parents taught at the local mission school.
Her parents are Susan Dangarembga who was the first black woman in Southern Rhodesia to earn a degree and Amon Dangarembga who became the school’s headmaster.
She lived in England for four years between the ages of two and six while her parents advanced their education. She returned with her family to Southern Rhodesia in 1965 and relearned Shona as she had forgotten most of it.
Tsitsi Dangarembga’s education
Tsitsi began her early education in England. After moving back to Rhodesia, she enrolled at Hartzell Primary School in Old Mutare before joining the Marymount Mission convent school. She finished her A-Levels at Arundel School, a prestigious all-girls boarding school.
In 1977, she returned to England to study medicine at the University of Cambridge, Sidney Sussex College. She however faced a lot of racism and left after three years returning a few months before Zimbabwe gained its independence.
Upon her return to Zimbabwe, she worked as a teacher briefly before enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe to study medicine and psychology.
She also studied film direction at Berlin's Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie in Germany where she enrolled in 1989, where she worked on several narrative and documentary films.
Tsitsi Dangarembga career
While studying at the University of Zimbabwe, Tsitsi also worked as a copywriter for a marketing agency. She also joined the university drama club and a theatre group called Zambuko where she wrote and directed several plays.
During this period, she wrote several plays including Lost of the Soil (1983), She No Longer Weeps (which was later published in Harare in 1987), and The Third One.
Tsitsi Dangaremeba's debut novel, Nervous Conditions, was published in England in 1988 when she was only twenty-five years old. It was the first novel written by a black Zimbabwean woman to be published in English, and it won the African Section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. The sequel, The Book of Not, came out in 2006 and a third sequel This Mournable Body was published in 2018.
She wrote the story for the film Neria which was produced in 1991 and became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history.
In 1992, she founded a film production company based in Harare called Nyerai Films and in 2002, she founded the International Images Film Festival (IIFF) which gives women a platform to tell their own stories and celebrate their work in an industry that is male-dominated.
Since launching her career, Tstsi has grown to become one of the most influential African women in literature and film and has won several prestigious awards including the 2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression and the 2021 Peace Prize.
Read also: What happened at Tsistsi’s book event?
Tsitsi Dangarembga's husband and children
Tsitsi Dangarembga is married to Olaf Koschke. Her children are Tonderai, Chadamoyo and Masimba.
Tsitsi Dangarembga controversy
On the 31st of July 2020, Tsitsi was arrested ahead of anti-corruption protests. A warrant of arrest was issued for her in June 2022 and she was prosecuted for incitement to public violence and violation of anti-Covid rules in connection with the July 2022 protests.
In September 2022, she was arrested and convicted for promoting public violence after she and her friend- Julie Barnes organized a peaceful demonstration in Harare demanding reforms in the country’s institutions.
She was slapped with a $110 fine and a 6-month suspended jail sentence.