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What happened at Tsitsi Dangarembga's Book Event

Artistic encounters delivered

BY Agnes Amondi

Jul 12, 2022, 02:49 PM

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Tsitsi Dangarembga

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You’ve heard the phrase, “If you want to hide something from an African put it in a book… Africans don’t like to read.” 

I bet those who turned up to watch actress Hana Kefela provide a rendition of Nervous Conditions, a book written by celebrated Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Danagrembga, at Cheche Books on 9 July would highly disagree. 

I walked in and found two book lovers excitedly talking about African literature books they’ve read. Part of that included Tsitisi’s books, Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not and This Mournable Body. They went on for quite a while as I looked through the room, which is beautifully decorated, and as people walked in.
Cheche books events
At the stroke of three O’clock, Cheche bookshop was packed, our main guest Tsitisi arrived and Hana took to the stage and delivered a masterclass. She dramatised parts of the book, Nervous Conditions.
Actress Hana Kefela

Tambudzai, the main protagonist's journey from her poverty-stricken home to living with her rich uncle Babamukuru, who funds her education and changes her view of her culture to the end where she eventually comes to appreciate her Shona heritage.
Tsitsi's book Nervous Conditions
Hana’s performance beautifully captured the themes presented in the book; patriarchy, the impact of colonisation on our heritage and poverty. Sadly, these are challenges that many African countries are still grappling with but things are slowly changing.

Tsitsi’s Time

Tsitsi Dangarenbga (Left), Zukiswa Wanner (Right)
We don’t dispute the fact that the entire event was fantastic but the key moment came when the Booker-nominated writer Tsitsi Dangarembga took to the stage. She is very composed which only makes everyone around her comfortable, well-spoken and highly generous with her time.

What is she up to? Moderator Zukiswa Wanner began her chat with Tsitsi. She went on to mention her role as the International Chair of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, which she landed in 2020, and through which she is able to hold such events. 

Later on, the audience got to pick Tsitsi’s mind on a number of issues. Is she still making films? Her recent arrest warrant in Zimbabwe, why she decided to give Tambu a challenging role, and her thoughts on the situation in her home country Zimbabwe.
Tsitsi Dangarembga
She eloquently tackled each and every one of these including her arrest, which you might think she would shy away from addressing. Tsitsi seemed unfazed and said she would challenge the authorities. Additionally, fighting for justice is something she is not about to give up on despite her run-ins with the law.

On Tambu, she maintains that she had to go through the tumultuous journey of discrimination, poverty and colonisation to demonstrate how these elements impact individuals and culture.

In between these questions, there was no shortage of praise from the audience for her work.  

Book signing

Tsitsi book signing session
There was no way this event would wrap up without having Tsitsi sign a few copies of her books. Most of the audience waited patiently in line and thanks to Tsitsi’s grace and patience, she went through more than a handful of people. 

That’s not all. We wanted to capture the moment with her and honestly, she was prepared for selfie requests because any public figure of her stature knows that it is a highlight for their followers.

Yours truly requested a photo session twice and on both occasions, Tsitsi happily granted my request.  

My moment with Tsitsi

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Agnes Amondi
How do you get those precious few moments with an internationally renowned author? Well, you might just walk up to them and introduce yourself, except that they have a schedule of what to do and where to be. Plus, you are not the only one clamouring to get their attention so what to do?

A small disclaimer here. You might have your tricks on how to do this so I’m only sharing how I got a one-on-one with Tsitsi.

After her chat, multiple people were already at the desk waiting for her to sign their books and a photo or chat moment. I was one of them and it felt like I’d miss out on this elusive opportunity.

So I got my first shot and was pretty chaffed. This allowed me to interact with the rest and take a few more snaps. I went back into the room and Tsitisi was still around, signing books. 

Most people were having their chit-chats, no longer clamouring for Tsitisi and it dawned on me that I could actually, pretty much get some time with her. 

At the tail end of her book signing session, I finally got chatting with her. Firstly, about her book Nervous Conditions, which you will find to be relatable, just as I did, regardless of your country. In fact, this was one of her aims.

Secondly, in relation to current Zimbabwe. She admitted that the state of affairs back home is pretty sad but remains hopeful that things will gradually shift in their favour. She is walking the talk by leading the fight for justice. 

Finally, on what it means to be political without it being the end and be all of your life. She simply said that you have to be a better person first before you demand the same of others. 

With those few but important words, Tsitsi was off and I hang around for a few minutes, enough to see everyone leave and the bookshop reset back to its original state.