Tsitsi Dangarembgas takketale

På helgens årsmøte ble den zimbabwiske forfatteren, dramatikeren filmregissøren og aktivisten Tsitsi Dangarembga tildelt Ytringsfrihetsprisen. Her er hennes takketale:

by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga holdt takketale på årsmøtet da hun ble tildelt DnFs ytringsfrihetspris.

Acceptance Remarks,

The Norwegian Authors’ Union’s Freedom of Expression Award 2022 by Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Oslo, 18 March, 2023

Good day everybody. I’m standing here to say thank you to the Norwegian Author’s Association for inviting me to their Annual General Meeting for the purpose of bestowing on me the Association’s 2022 Freedom of Expression Award.

Clearly, there would be no such award if there were no Association to present it. Therefore, I also thank all the Association’s members, for their engagement. I had occasion to look at the website, and saw the vast amount of work that the Association undertakes, including industry statistics, surveys and analysis; agreements and frameworks as well as member services – all to fulfil the Association’s core tasks of political influence in Norway and the world. As we know, effective action requires leadership. Therefore my thanks also go to Ms Heidi Marie Kriznik for the leadership that she provides to the Association. I would also like to acknowledge Ingvild Holvik’s generous spirit in nominating a very slow writer such as myself for this prestigious award.

My fiction and non-fiction are concerned with the human condition in Zimbabwe. Because of this I have had disputes with a number people, including my colleague from Future Library here in Oslo, Anne Beate Hovind, concerning whether or not I am a political activist. At the most, I say, I am a cultural activist, through the work that I do to provide skills of narrative expression to those who had not previously accessed them, particularly young women in Zimbabwe and further afield in Africa through my NGO the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust.

If you are a cultural activist, I have been asked, by a certain grouping of people in Zimbabwe, why then did you go out into the streets on July 31 2020 with placards carrying messages that requested the release of some citizens – including the journalist Hopewell Chin’ono – who had been detained without trial by the Zimbabwean government for demanding a corruption free, more equal, constitutional Zimbabwe, where the rule of law prevailed without fear or favour?

I was hard pressed to find a response until another dear colleague, the Caymanian-British writer Sara Collins, provided one. Sara explained to me that my core business, whether I am writing fiction, non-fiction or screen plays, or am transferring skills in these areas, is analysing society and passing on this analysis to other people. Dentists, Sara said, have the core business of analyzing what they see in people’s mouths. While analysing what one sees in a person’s mouth is hardly likely to cause one to go out onto the street with placards even in times of extreme social decay, analysing society is likely to result in such a response, even if the analyser’s primary intention is to produce narrative; and especially if the prevailing conditions make it all but impossible for the producer of narrative to continue to produce.

Zimbabwe is a repressive state. In this repressive state, people like myself are boycotted and hard put to it to find work in the country, due to the fact that our narrative is not created to flatter the ZANU PF regime that has been in power in Zimbabwe for forty-three years, in my opinion, ruinously.

Therefore in 2020, with no other avenue possible to express my views on the crisis in the country, in a way that would impact other Zimbabweans, and make people who, for example, analyse people’s mouths, or who are concerned with other activities, pause for a moment to contemplate the crisis in the country, as well as to express my own frustration with my situation as a Zimbabwean, a frustration that arose out of repression and collapse in the country, I went into the streets with a few words of writing inscribed on posters.

If I had had my way, I would have chosen a different mode of expression, one that would have reached many Zimbabweans and people further afield. However, the corruption, repression and consequent economic collapse in Zimbabwe render any offering to the public that is more than rather banal creative narrative quite rare; and these rare offerings come amidst copious servings of state propaganda.

Intellectual analysis presented in a way that the general population can identify with, evokes state responses that prevent the narrative from coming to fruition, or that intimidate and punish the producers of such narrative. Just a couple of weeks ago, a popular singer called WinkyD had his show stopped when he sang a song about the situation in the country. At the same time, we have opposition politicans such as Job Sikhala languishing in jail for nine months and more due to demanding justice in the case of the femicide of a woman who was a key community organiser in his party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change. Job Sikhala is seen as one of the opposition’s key change makers because he is doer as well as a talker.

WinkyD’s performance was packed. People in Zimbabwe and elsewhere are hungry for narratives that explain their society and their situation to them. However, producing expressions about society, and the condition of society, as well as the condition of the human beings in that society is not an activity that comes naturally to all. I end by stressing how imperative it is to support and resource those whose core business it to produce public expressions in various disciplines, expressions that promote public engagement and therefore public analysis of the public’s human condition.

This is why I am particularly grateful to receive this award, at a time when my work is undermined in my country by government policies and practices; while furthermore, the expression of people in small African countries with corrupt repressive governments such as Zimbabwe are not regarded as a priority internationally. This is hardly surprising, when we have, for example, the Oscars, to entertain us.

This award will contribute to enabling me to continue to produce my socially analytical narrative that speaks to many in Zimbabwe and beyond in the interests of motivating a fairer, more equal society. It will also lend me time for my work of capacitating others to produce such narrative from their various perspectives. I am grateful, and I thank you.