Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, will reportedly be conferred with the 2021 PEN Freedom of Expression award. This follows Dangarembga’s political activism during Zimbabwe’s protests last year against the government’s crackdown on dissent. According to Writers Unlimited, the award will be conferred in the opening ceremony of the Winternachten International Literature Festival at The Hague this coming Wednesday.
The PEN Freedom of Expression award “honours writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue to work despite the consequences”. According to Brittle Paper, Dangarembga will be honoured for her participation in the 2020 Zimbabwe’s protests against the unlawful incarceration of journalist, Hopewell Chino’ono. The protests spurred a social media movement under the online banner of #ZimbabweanLivesMatter which garnered international attention. Dangaremba was arrested by Zimbabwean authorities and later released on bail.
Dangarembga is known for her seminal 1988 novel, Nervous Conditions, centred on beloved female protagonist Tambudzai.The popular book explores the personal developments of Zimbabwean characters as they transition across economic classes through the eyes of female protagonist. The Book of Not, published in 2006, carried on the narrative of Tambudzai and was followed by This Mournable Body in 2018. This Mournable Body stood out as it foregrounds the disheartening political landscape of Zimbabwe and was subsequently shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020.
A self-proclaimed gender and cultural activist, Danagarembga’s career record shows that she has consistently spoken out against political injustice. Last year’s winner was Uganda’s Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a writer, academic and feminist activist. Nyanzi was reportedly arrested on the order of President Yoweri Museveni for “cyber harassment” after calling out Museveni’s questionable leadership.