Tsitsi Dangarembga Is on the December 2020 Cover of Open Country Mag

Icon in African literature. Icon in Zimbabwean film. Our debut cover story had to be on a writer whose work lights a way.
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Tsitsi Dangarembga is on the December 2020 cover of Open Country Mag.

Back in May, when I first drafted a list of names for the monthly covers of Open Country Mag—writers, editors, and literary curators who have made a way where there was none, who have changed our understanding of ideas and conditions, impacting whole generations and creating visibility for marginalized communities—I thought hard about one question: Who goes first? The lockdown was in full mode, our ideas of what literature should be had been challenged, and for Open Country Mag, it had to be someone whose entire journey has been about upending obstacles, someone whose work and persistence light a way.

Tsitsi Dangarembga: icon in African literature, icon in Zimbabwean film. I had actually been thinking of a story on her for two years now, since she announced the coming of This Mournable Body, the final book in her trilogy of Zimbabwe, a trajectory of one woman, Tambudzai Sigauke, one of African literature’s best-known heroines.

In the news around the novel’s shortlisting for the Booker Prize, it seemed that, finally, after 32 years, the author of Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not, waymaker for a generation of writers, was getting her personal due. Their journeys are different, but something about hers recalls another literary icon’s story: Bernardine Evaristo’s.

Tsitsi Dangarembga is on the December 2020 cover of Open Country Mag.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is on the December 2020 cover of Open Country Mag.

The African and Zimbabwean literary scenes have changed remarkably from when a 25-year-old Dangarembga finished Nervous Conditions and got it published at 29, and entered, unprepared, into the vortex of being a young, Black, African, Zimbabwean woman learning film in Berlin and struggling to make money off a book in London that did go far but left her name behind.

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Over two conversations, Dangarembga tells us about this and other obstacles. She reflects on reaching a new phase of safety in her career. And she gifts us a 10-minute response on the place of young people in today’s world, a response so mindful and detailed, we decided to run it as a separate feature.

This is a fitting debut cover story for Open Country’s mission to record African literary culture, to re-look at histories big and small, revisiting details and re-contextualizing where need be. For our vision to bring the most important African literary conversations back to our continent’s literary platforms. We are honoured to help celebrate this icon.

COVER STORY: HOW TSITSI DANGAREMBGA, WITH HER TRILOGY OF ZIMBABWE, OVERCAME

Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young, a writer, culture journalist, curator, and media consultant, is the founder and editor of Open Country Mag. He was editor of Folio Nigeria, CNN’s exclusive media affiliate in Africa, and has led or joined editorial teams at a host of platforms and projects in African literature. He has written about the Nigerian culture scene, covering innovation in over 20 fields including art, music, tech, sports, cuisine, fashion, journalism, sculpture, beauty, health, and activism. In literature, his Profile subjects have included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Damon Galgut, and Tsitsi Dangarembga. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He sat on the judging panel of The Morland Scholarship, a British grant for African writers, and currently chairs the panel of The Gerald Kraak Prize, a South African initiative for storytelling about gender, sexuality, and social justice. He has an MA in African Studies and a BA in English and History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He is currently studying for an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among “The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” by Avance Media. Twitter & Instagram: @otosirieze. Website: otosirieze.com.

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