7.3  Tsitsi Dangarembga (b. 1959) & Nervous Conditions (1988)
HUM 211 Course Pack - Winter 2010  Fall 2007
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SHORT CUTS on this web page: Tsitsi Dangarembga | Nervous Conditions Reading Guide:
Characters | Family Relationships | Places | Chapter Notes & Discussion Questions | Works Cited

(b. 1959, Zimbabwe,
Southeast Africa; Ethnic group: Shona)

"Written when the author was twenty-five, Nervous Conditions put Dangarembga
at the forefront of the younger generation of African writers producing literature in English today.
. . . . Nervous Conditions highlights that which is often effaced in postcolonial African literature
 in English--the representation of young African girls and women as worthy subjects
 of literature . . . . While the critical reception of this novel has focused mainly on
the author's feminist agenda, in [this] interview . . . Dangarembga stresses that she has moved
from . . . gender politics to an appreciation of the complexities of the politics
 of postcolonial subjecthood" (George and Scott 309).

Tsitsi Dangarembga was interviewed 4 Sept. 1989 in London by Jane Wilkinson: quotations below are from Wilkinson's interview with Dangarembga. Additional commentary is Cora Agatucci's.  

There seem to be many autobiographical parallels between Tsitsi Dangarembga’s and Tambu’s lives, although Tambudzai (supposed to be 13 in 1968 in the novel) would be slightly older than Dangarembga (who was 9 in 1968). Dangarembga says that she wrote of "things I had observed and had had direct experience with," but "larger than any one person’s own tragedies…[with] a wider implication and origin and therefore were things that needed to be told" (190).

One important theme in Nervous Conditions is that of remembering and forgetting—especially the danger of Tambu’s forgetting who she is, where she came from—as her brother Nhamo did. Dangarembga acknowledges this in the interview (191). "I personally do not have a fund of our cultural tradition or oral history to draw from, but I really did feel that if I am able to put down the little I know then it’s a start" (191). Nyasha, the author says, doesn’t have anything to forget, for she never knew, was never taught her culture and origins—and this forms "some great big gap inside her." "Tambudzai, on the other hand is quite valid in saying that she can’t forget because she has that kind of experience. Nyasha is so worried about forgetting because it’s not there for her to remember. Tambudzai is so sure that this is the framework of her very being that there is no way that she would be able to forget it" (191-192).

Dangarembga was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), spent ages 2-6 in Britain where she began her schooling. She notes that she and her brother began to speak English there "as a matter of course and forgot most of the Shona that we had learnt" (196). When they returned to Zimbabwe, when she was six, she learned Shona again and later attended mission school in Mutare and then a private American convent school. Dangarembga notes that she didn’t learn "much about anything indigenous at all" in these schools (190). She cites one problem that Zimbabwean people of her generation—and Nyasha’s—have is "that we really don’t have a tangible history that we can relate to" (191); "that was the [colonized] system we were living under. Even the history was written in such a way that a child who did not want to accept that had to reject it and have nothing"—which, she states, is Nyasha’s problem (198). Dangarembga also calls her first language English—the language used all through her education—and Shona her second language: "Sometimes I worry about Shona: how long it’s going to survive….There are very few people who can speak good Shona and even fewer who can write it. Maybe we’ve caught it just in time with the [Zimbabwean] Government’s policies of traditional culture and so forth, so maybe it’s not as sad as it seems" (196). Later on when Dangarembga was working in a publishing house, Zimbabwean historians were beginning to "rewrite the history. I was editing this Grade Seven text and I can remember saying to my editor that, if I had read that particular version of history when I had been at school, I would have been a much more integrated person" (197-198).

Dangarembga went back to England, to Cambridge Univ. in 1977, to study medicine, but returned to Zimbabwe in 1980, just before independence (earned after some 15 years of warfare). It was then, Dangarembga says in the interview, that she "began to feel the need for an African literature that I could read and identify with," first through reading "Afro-American women writers" (194-195). During independence celebrations, she heard a beautiful Shona poem recited—an oral arts performance, not a written poem—and "it brought back to me that we have an oral language here. It isn’t written, it’s oral, and when it is reproduced in the medium in which it is meant to be, it is absolutely astounding. But it was also a painful experience: to think we’d lost so much of it." (195)—this "wealth of literature" that hadn’t been written down. "It is good to have people like Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. They were the people I think who really pointed me in the direction of African literature as such as opposed to Afro-American literature" (195).

She worked in an ad agency, studied psychology at the Univ. of Zimbabwe, then enrolled in a drama group, found an outlet for her creative leanings, and wrote 3 plays, including She No Longer Weeps (1987). Dangarembga notes that "There were simply no plays with roles for black women, or at least we didn’t have access to them at the time. The writers in Zimbabwe were basically men at the time. And so I really didn’t see that the situation would be remedied unless some woman sat down and wrote something, so that’s what I did!" (196). Nervous Conditions was Dangarembga’s first novel, written in 1985 and published in 1988. Dangarembga had some trouble getting her novel accepted for publication until she took it to a women’s publishing house. "[Doris] Lessing explains how Nervous Conditions was rejected by four Zimbabwe publishers, and was not published within the country until Women's Press in London first published it. According to Lessing, it was "criticized by male critics as being 'negative,' and presenting an unfair picture of the lives of black women" (423; cited in Saliba n. 1).

When asked why she wrote about childhood, Dangarembga says that "if at the age of twenty-six somebody has a story to tell it’s likely to be about growing up! Also I’m always conscious at the back of my mind that there is very little that a woman in Zimbabwe can pick up – in Zimbabwe today – and say yes, I know, that’s me….Because I know I felt that gap so dreadfully" (197) of there being very little literature by and about African women that she could relate to. After receiving the Commonwealth Writers’ Award in August 1989, she went to Berlin to study filmmaking. (She has since directed the film Everyone’s Child.) Dangarembga says there are many Zimbabwean women writers now, but most write in either Shona or Ndebele so they haven’t acquired an international audience (197).

See also Seal Press "Interview with the Author," Tsitsi Dangarembga,
in our current HUM 211 course text of Nervous Conditions, pp. 205-208.
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. 4th ed. (with foreward by K. Anthony Appiah). New York: Seal Press, 2004.

Tsitsi Dangarembga, by Rebecca Grady, 1997,
for Postcolonial Studies at Emory Univ., with bibliography and links:

Tsitsi Dangarembga (b. 1959)
Pegasos (Petri Liukkonen, Finland), 2003:

"Everyone's Child," California Newreel:
Everyone's Child, dir. Tsitsi Dangarembga: videotape is held by COCC Library.

Characters, Family Relationships, Places, Chapter Notes & Reading Questions

"Nervous Conditions is that rare novel whose characters are unforgettable. . . .
Nervous Conditions introduces quite a new voice that, in its self-assurance, sounds, at times, very old.
As if the African sisters, mothers, and cousins of antiquity were, at last, beginning to reassert themselves
in these perilous times, and to speak. It is an expression of liberation not to be missed."
--Alice Walker (From book jacket notes in U.S. ed. of Nervous Conditions [Seattle: The Seal Press, 1988]).

"A girl's coming of age in a world shaped by conflicting cultures"
on Nervous Conditions, McDougal Littell's Literature Connections:


Tambudzai aka: Tambu: the narrator and one of the main characters of the novel.

Mainini (“Mother” in Shona: see below) refers to Tambu’s mother, and she is cited as one of the four women Tambu loved whose story the novel is intended to tell. She is resident “Mother” of the Sigauke homestead and called Mainini by other relatives in respect of her position; her given name is sometimes appended, as when she is called Mainini Ma’Shingayi.

Jeremiah is the Christianized name of Tambu’s father; he is Babamukuru’s brother.

Nhamo: Tambu’s older brother who dies early in the novel; son of Jeremiah and Mainini Ma’Shingayi

Netsai and Rambanai are Tambu’s sisters; later a brother Dambudzai is also born.

Babamukuru: the head of the Siguake family and Tambu’s uncle; after completing his education in England from 1960-1965, Babamurkuru returned to Rhodesia to assume the position of headmaster of the primary level of the mission school at Umtali; he has the title of Academic Director of the protestant church’s Manicaland region. He is also called Babawa Chido by his wife. Lucia early on calls him her mwaramu, an assertion of claim to patrilineal relationship (see below) and a male relational title of respect. Later, however, when she seeks to assert a stronger claim of patrilineal kinship relation in Umtali, Lucia calls him Babamukuru, a “more dignified” term of higher respect for his position as head of the Sigauke family.

Maiguru is Babamukuru’s educated wife, and also one of the four women Tambu loved whose story the novel is intended to tell. Maiguru also teaches at the Umtali mission school; she is mother to Chido (son) and Nyasha. Her husband sometimes calls her Ma’Chido; Lucia refers to her a Maiguruku (“-ku” a familiarizing suffix).

Nyasha is a second major character in the novel, another one of the four women Tambu loved whose story the novel is intended to tell. Nyasha is Babamukuru and Maiguru’s daughter, Tambu’s beloved cousin and close friend. She is called “Anglicized” because she has spent her early years of education in England with her parents, speaks British English, and has adopted English ways.

Chido is Nyasha’s brother and Tambu’s male cousin, another “Anglicized” Sigauke. He attends the elite and costly multiracial government school in Salisbury with his white friends, Mr. Baker’s sons.

Anna is Babamukuru and Maiguru’s serving woman

Lucia is the younger sister of Tambu’s mother Mainini, who comes to the homestead to to help with the work when her sister is ailing.

Takesure is a distant male cousin of Babamukuru; he comes to live at the Sigauke homestead ostensibly to help Jeremiah with the work.

Mr. Baker is one of the “strange” whites at the Umtali mission; his children are Nyaradzo (daughter), a good friend and agemate of Nyasha’s; Andrew and Brian, Mr. Baker’s sons, are good friends and school fellows of Chido.

Babamunini Thomas is brother to Babamukuru and Jeremiah, a male patriarch of the Sigauke clan.

Mainini Patience is Babamunini Thomas’ wife.

Tete Gladys is sister (“of the womb”) to Babamukuru, Jeremiah, and Babamunini Thomas, a female patriarch of the Sigauke clan.

     The Shona, including the Siguake family, follow a patrilineal (descent through males) kinship system , and practice patrilocality whereby, after marriage, the bride leaves her home to live with or near her husband’s family. Under patriliny, the lines of descent and authority are traced through fathers: a man and his brothers, their children, and their sons’ children are counted members of the same descent group. Fathers, and the family’s male head of the family especially, are owed respect and obedience as the immediate representative of the lineage or clan (often identified by a totem). Children tend to view fathers and male family heads as emotionally distant disciplinary authorities, whatever the degree of affection they may have for each other. A wife, at the time of her marriage, exchanges the authority of her father for that of her husband, and in many patrilineal societies of southern Africa, a wife is gradually absorbed into her husband’s patrilineal descent group. Women are also counted members of patrilineal descent group, but a sister’s or daughter’s children will belong to their fathers’ rather than their mother’s kinship groups. Matrilineal (“mother’s side”) links are of secondary importance in the social scheme. (Note that Maiguru, followed by Lucia, may upon occasion dissociate themselves from the patrilineally traced clan of their husbands.)
     Patrilineal Shona marriages, and the children that result, are traditionally legitimized by exchange of roora, or “bridewealth,” in which the bride’s family group accepts livestock, other movable property, and more recently cash or opportunities for earning cash, in compensation for the loss of their daughter’s labor and fertility. Roora is rarely paid in full or all at once, for the bride’s group often maintains leverage over their in-laws by keeping the groom and his kin in their debt (note that Takesure is still paying off roora for his second wife). Bridewealth transactions have traditionally been understood, not as calculated buying and selling of wives, but as symbolic tokens of women’s value. More recently, however, with the monetized economic shift to migrant labor systems or cash cropping in Africa, bridewealth practices have often been transformed from cooperative alliances between two extended families into purely private transactions between the bride’s husband and her father--they alone may calculate the bride’s monetary value and tend to treat the bride as a commodity. This transformation has tended to foster economic individualism and commoditize social relations with devastating effects on women of Shona, Zulu, Swazi, and other patrilineal peoples of southeast Africa.

I thank Katrina Daly Thompson (Dept. of African Languages and Literature, Univ. of Wisconsin),
who corrected, via e-mail, some translations of Shona relational titles below. ~ CA

Siguake Family “Patriarchy” consists of:

bullet Babamukuru ("Big/Elder Father"), who is "the head of the family, but not the extended family and certainly not the clan.
This is why Tambu is so confused when she has to serve all the men in the family"
bullet Jeremiah
bullet Babamunini Thomas - the relational title "Babumunini" ("Little/Young Father") means husband of a mainini (see below);
bullet Tete Gladys - "more specifically the tete is the father's sister, who is given patriarchal respect because
she is from the male side of the family; all other aunts would be "
mainini"s. Thus in the novel only Gladys,
Tambudzai's father's sister is
Tete; all other aunts are "mainini"s or "maiguru" (Thompson)

These characters are the participants in the family dare, or meeting of the family patriarchy to address serious family business, recounted in chapter 7. Shona kinship relations are complex and hierarchical; the terms used variously to refer to the novel’s characters give us some indication of the multiple and confusing titles of respect and status operative in familial relationships.

Baba is a relational title of respect for adult male fathers in Shona.

Mainini literally means "'Little/Young Mother' but is used for an aunt married to a younger male of the family.
"Amai" (often shortened to "Mai") is the correct word for mother. Thus the husband of a Mainini is "Babumunini" (Little/Young Father) and a "Maiguru" is the opposite, meaning "Big Mother" or aunt married to the eldest male in the family (Babamukuru, Big/Elder Father)" (

Mukoma, mukoma "means older sibling of the same sex as the speaker. So a girl's mukoma would be her older sister; Tambu and her sister use the term incorrectly in the novel to refer to Nhamo, who should be called their 'hanzvadzi' (sibling of the opposite sex)" (Thompson)

Sisi is sister in Shona, and a relational title for unmarried females of a family

Tete is aunt in Shona, and a relational title of respect for adult females of a family: see also Tete Gladys above.

Nyamashewe is an opening ritual greeting, a paying of respects followed by formal inquiries after others’ health, etc.


Rhodesia: at the time (1960s and early 1970s) of the events recounted in Nervous Conditions, the name of the southeast African country, colonized by the British, in which the characters live. At independence in 1980, the country was renamed Zimbabwe (“stone house” in Shona). The capital of Rhodesia is Salisbury, renamed Harare in post-independence Zimbabe. Another major city mentioned is Bulawayo.

The homestead: the ancestral homesite and land of the Siguake family, of whom Babawamukuru is the head. Tambu’s father, mother, children, and other relatives, live at the rural Siguake homestead, which is 20 miles from the town of Umtali.

kraal is traditionally the cattle enclosure central to a homestead; kraal is an Afrikaans (Africanized Dutch) word of southern Africa.

hozi is a "a building used to store grain. In certain times of the year, if emptied of grain, it might be used to house guests" (Thompson), one of several structures of the homestead

Nyamarira River, near the homestead of the Siguake family.

Regional District Council Houses of the government are mentioned as being less than a mile from Tambu’s childhood washing places on the Nyamarira River.

Rutviki School is the local African school where Tambu begins her education, near the homestead.

Umtali refers to the town where the mission school is located, as well as the communal lands of the same region.

The mission school at Umtali is a British Protestant mission (therefore probably Church of England or Anglican), and the school is primarily for black African children, although some of the white missionary-teachers’ children, like Nyaradzo, also attend; Babamukuru is the headmaster of the primary levels and Maiguru also teaches there. This is the school that first Nhamo, then Tambu attends, as well as Nyasha.(To get an idea of what such mission schools looked like, click this UNESCO exhibit Mission Settlements in South Africa.)

Rhodesia school system, based on the British system, is divided into primary and secondary divisions, similar to U.S. K-12 public school system. Successively numbered forms are broken down into standards, categories like “grades” in U.S. schools, but the age equivalents are different: for example, 13-year-old Tambu mentions being in Standard 3 the year her brother died (1968), which is below the Standard 5 level (usually 13-14 year olds) she would have been in had she been able to attend school continuously. To continue their schooling, African children must pass fiercely competitive examinations administered frequently; at each higher level, fewer places are available for qualifying black Africans, and the fees are often too expensive even for the qualified African children to attend.

Beit Hall is site of the Christmas Party of chapter 6, and is located at the Umtali mission school where Babamukuru is headmaster

Young Ladies College of the Sacret Heart is the exclusive, expensive, private Roman Catholic convent school, located in Salisbury, at which Tambu earns one of the few places and scholarships reserved for black African girls. Tambu mentions that at Sacred Heart she can continue study all the way to A Level of Rhodesian pre-university education without having to take and pass the the yearly competitive exams continually threatening to exclude African children from continuing their education.

GENRE: BILDUNGSROMAN is a German term meaning a novel or story of formation, focusing on "the development of the protagonist's mind and character, in the passage from childhood through varied experiences--and often through a spiritual [or psychological] crisis--into maturity and the recognition of his or her identity and role in the world" (Abrams 132). 



Title & Epigraph: Read the two critics' commentary below and consider their interpretations of significance of the title and epigraph to Dangarembga's novel:

"The title, Nervous Conditions, comes from a statement Dangarembga uses as the prologue to her novel - 'The condition of native is a nervous condition' - taken from the [Jean-Paul Sartre's] introduction to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth (1963), in which he wrote about the psychosocial effects of colonization. Thus, illness is a preexistent, thematic condition under which the events of the novel take place. For Nyasha and Tambu, the condition of native as a nervous condition comprises not only colonization but also the condition of gender and the condition of female education. Their attempts to function in a society that does not allow them socially acceptable verbal or written outlets as educated, female Africans result in their being punished for inappropriate expressions of dissatisfaction and anger" (Hill).

"Nervous Conditions acquires its title from Jean-Paul Sartre's introduction to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth [first published in 1963], which states, 'The colonial condition is a nervous condition.' The effects of colonization permeate the text, which examines a plurality of nervous conditions, especially sexual colonization resulting from the social construction of male privilege within African society. Tambudzai's coming-of-age story takes place within this context and charts the resistances of various female characters within her extended family to the multiple oppressions of sexism, racism, colonialism, and capitalism" (Saliba).

Ch. 1 (pp. 1-12), Ch. 2 (pp. 13-34), and Ch. 3 (pp. 35-57)

1. The narrator Tambudzai, or Tambu, opens the novel by stating flatly, “I was not sorry when my brother died.” She later brings us back to opening moment of the novel again in chapter 3, when Nhamo is late returning from school as expected.Why isn’t Tambudzai sorry that her brother Nhamo has died? Trace the deterioration of Tambu’s relationship with Nhamo.

2. What are the burdens of womanhood, according to Tambu’s mother? Describe Tambu’s relationship with her father Jeremiah.

3. Why is Tambu’s grandmother’s “fairy tale” story of the family significant?

4. How do Tambu and the rest of the family react to Babamukuru, Maiguru, Nyasha, and Chido, all newly returned from England, at the clan gathering of chapter 3?

5. Why has Babamukuru determined that Nhamo, rather than Tambu, should come live with him at the Umtali mission and continue his education at the mission school? Why does Babamukuru decide Tambu should go to the mission school after Nhamo dies?

6. How does Tambu’s mother Mainini react to her son’s death? On what or whom does she blame his death?

7. What effect does Dangarembga’s untranslated Shona terms have on your reading of the novel? Compare/contrast the opening chapters of Dangarembga’s novel to Things Fall Apart. Consider especially the narrator or narrative voices of the two novels: from whose perspective(s) are these two stories told, and whose stories are being told in each novel?

"Sadza ne Nyama ('Sadza [and Meat Stew]') or simply Sadza is the staple diet for most of Zimbabwe's indigenous peoples."
Mbira Pages: Shona Culture Resource Guide (Solomon Murungu & Zambuko Projects, 2004)

Ch. 4 (58-76) and Ch. 5 (pp. 77-102)

8. Describe Tambu’s responses and feelings when she first comes to live at the mission and go to the mission school.

9. Compare the characters of Tambu and Nyasha as they are revealed to us once the girls begin to share a room at the mission house. Describe the nature and trace the development of their friendship. Why is Tambu both attracted to and disapproving of her cousin? How do their attitudes toward Babamukuru and Maiguru differ?

10. Describe the characters and relationship of Babamukuru and Maiguru at home at the mission. Describe their relationships to their children Chido and Nyasha. Consider Tambu’s first formal interview with Babamukuru in the living room the evening of her arrival: what does it reveal about Tambu’s relationship with Babamukuru, the head of the Sigauke family?

11. Why does Tambu feel she has undergone a “reincarnation” (p. 92) at the mission? What are her successes in this new life? What transpires when she begins to menstruate?

12. Why is Tambu so surprised to learn that Maiguru has earned a master’s degree?

Ch. 6 (pp. 103-119)

13. Describe the categories of white people that Tambu observes at the mission.

14. Why do all the black African children want to go to the multiracial government schools, like the one where Chido attends? How did Chido get into that school?

15. Why is Nyasha so “nervous” about passing her Form 2 examinations? Why does she say she’d almost like to fail to see how her father would respond?

16. Trace the significant moments of the scene at the Beit Hall Christmas Party and its aftermath. Why do Nyasha and her father fight?

17. Why does Tambu say, “I was having to revise my thinking” (p. 116)?

18. Why does Nyasha seem to be “burning herself out” (p. 116)? Why does Nyasha want to resist getting “‘comfortable and used to the way things are’”(p. 117)? How has her early life in England shaped the way she is now? Interpret Tambu’s characterization of Nyasha’s conflict as “self versus surrender and the content of sin” (p. 118). What do you see as the inner conflicts for Nyasha and Tambu? How does Tambu’s thinking differ from Nyasha’s at this point?

19. In what way has Tambu saved Nyasha’s life (p. 119)? Why does Tambu admire her cousin?

Ch. 7 (pp. 120-148)

20. What reasons do you think Chido, Nyasha, Tambu, and Maiguru might have for not wanting to go to the homestead for Christmas holidays in December 1969? What are Tambu’s reactions to her return home?

21. Describe the characters and situations of Lucia and Takesure. Why is Babamukuru unhappy to see them at the homestead? What do we learn of the past history of Lucia and her sister?

22. Consider the formal scene of greetings in Mainini’s room. What is revealed by Mainini’s interactions with Nyasha, Tambudzai, Babamukuru, and Maiguru? How does Lucia behave and why?

23. The rest of the Sigauke “patriarchy” comes to the homestead for the Christmas holiday--though for Tambu it is no “holiday,” she says (p. 133): why? What do the sleeping arrangements reveal about the family hierarchy? What does the women’s work consist of?

24. Trace the important events of the parallel scenes of the dare of the family patriarchy, and the females in the kitchen. Why are all but Tete Gladys excluded from the dare? Why is mainini (Tambu’s mother) offended by Maiguru’s detachment and why is she so bitter about Maiguru? Interpret Tambu’s analysis of the women’s situation on p. 138. Interpret Nyasha’s later judgment that both Mainini Ma’Shingayi and Maiguru were showing their “suffering” p. 142).

25. What does Lucia do when she interrupts the Sigauke patriarchy’s dare? The case being discussed is initially identified by Babamukuru as Takesure’s, but Lucia and Jeremiah are drawn into the matter as parts of the family problem to be solved. What various solutions are offered to the “problem” by Tete Gladys, Takesure, Jeremiah? Why does Babamukuru object to his brother Jeremiah’s solution, and what solution does Babamukuru propose instead? Why does Babamukuru prevail?

26. How does Nyasha react to Tambu’s story of the outcome of the dare (pp. 147-148)? What does Tete Galdys conclude about the problem and the solutions (p. 148)?

Ch. 8 (pp. 149-175)

27. Why does Tambu object to her uncle’s plan that her parents have a church wedding? What are the sources of conflict for Tambu such that this business of the wedding become a “complex problem” (p. 151) for her? How does Tambu see herself in comparison to her cousin Nyasha? How does Babamukuru see the two girls?

28. Why does Tambu think the men have underestimated Lucia? What does Lucia do after the family dare? Why does Mainini have trouble making up her mind (p. 153)? Why does Lucia come to the mission with her sister and what is the outcome? How do Nyasha and Tambu differ in their appraisal of Babamukuru getting Lucia a job?

29. Why does her parents’ impending wedding become a “bed of confusion” (p. 165) for Tambu? What does she do the on the day of the wedding? What is Babamukuru’s reaction? What has impelled Tambu to defy her uncle on this matter of the wedding? What is her punishment?

30. Why does Maiguru fight with and then leave Babamukuru for 5 days? How does Nyasha view her mother’s leaving? Why is Nyasha disappointed when she learned where her mother has gone, and how does she react when her mother returns home with her father?

Ch. 9 (pp. 176-190)

31. Why do the nuns come to the mission school? Why is Tambu offered a place and a scholarship at the exclusive Sacred Heart convent school? Why does Nyasha think Tambu should not go? What is the process of “assimilation” she describes on p. 179? Why is Babamukuru also reluctant to let her go? How does Maiguru manage to influence her husband’s decision to let Tambu go to the convent school?

32. During Christmas vacation in December 1970, Maiguru refuses to go and stay at the homestead: why? Why does Babamukuru decide to let Tambu go to the convent school? What is Tambu’s mother’s reaction to the news? What role does Lucia play in helping Tambu take another step toward what she calls her “freedom”?

33. How does Tambu respond to others’ constant refrain that she not “forget” (p. 188)? What might Tambu be in danger of forgetting and why? Why does Tambu think she cannot “forget”?

34. Describe the state of Nyasha’s relationship with her father at the point when Tambu leaves for the convent school.

Ch. 10 (pp. 191-204)

35. How does Tambu respond to Sacred Heart when she first arrives? How does she view “my new life” (p. 191)? Why isn’t she missing Nyasha during her first term?

36. Describe Nyasha’s letters to Tambu while she is away at school, especially the “serious letter” (p. 196). Tambu sees little of Nyasha during her first term break, but in what state does she find Nyasha at the August holiday? Examine Nyasha’s break down (pp. 200-202): what do you think causes it? How does Tambu’s mother account for Nyasha’s break down and many of the other family problems she relates to “Englishness” (pp. 202-203)? What “suspicion” enters Tambu’s mind on p. 203?

37. Tambu tells us “seeds do grow” p. 203: what does she mean? Why does she no longer accept Sacred Heart as the “sunrise on my horizon”? Interpret the narrator’s closing statements, pp. 203-204. Where do you suppose Tambudzai is now and what might she be doing, at the time when she “set down this story”? What do you imagine that “long and painful process” of “expansion” over many years has meant to Tambudzai?

38. For what purpose(s) do you think Dangarembga has “appropriated”* the white man’s education, language, and literary forms in writing this novel? In what sense might you consider Nervous Conditions a female “response” to African male novels like Things Fall Apart? How do you think Dangarembga sees her role as an African storyteller?  [See also Tsitsi Dangarembga: Interview above.]

39. Identify what you interpret to be major theme(s) of Nervous Conditions. Does this title seem appropriate to you? Why or why not?


Works Cited

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms.  6th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers- Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1993.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. [First published 1988.] 3rd ed. New York: Seal Press, 2002.
        [ISBN: 1-58005-063-8, paperback. Includes Interview with the Author.]

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. Middlesex: Penguin, 1967.

George, Rosemary Marangoly, and Helen Scott. "An Interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga." Novel (Spring 1993):309-319.

[This interview was conducted at the African Writers Festival, Brown Univ., Nov. 1991]
NOTE: Full text available to COCC students from COCC Library subscription database EBSCOHost Academic Search Elite, Article No. 9312270407.

Hill, Janice E. "Purging a Plate Full of Colonial History: The 'Nervous Conditions' of Silent Girls." (Tsitsi Dangarembga's novel; Third World Women's Inscriptions) College Literature 22.1(Feb 1995):78(13pp.) Infotrac 2000 Expanded Academic ASAP, Article A16989112.

Full Text also available from EBSCOHost Academic Search Elite, Article Number 9503290996, COCC Library Subscription database.

Mbira Pages: Shona Culture Resource Guide.  Solomon Murungu & Zambuko Projects, 2004. 21 August 2004 <http://www.zambuko.com/mbira.html >.

Saliba, Therese. "On the Bodies of Third World Women: Cultural Impurity, Prostitution, and Other Nervous Conditions." (Third World Women's Inscriptions) College Literature 22.1(Feb 1995): 131(16pp). Academic Search Elite. EBSCOHost. [Article No. 9503291007]  Subscription Database.  Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 17 August 2004.

[NOTE: EBSCOHost subscription database articles are available online to COCC students!!]

Wilkinson, Jane. "Tsitsi Dangarembga." Talking with African Writers: Interviews with African Poets, Playwrights and Novelists. London: James Currey, 1992. 189-198.

More sources by and about Dangarembga & Nervous Conditions:
African Authors: Tsitsi Dangarembga:  http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/dangarembga.htm

COCC Home > Cora Agatucci Home > Classes > HUM 211 Home > HUM 211 Course Pack > Tsitsi Dangaremba & Nervous Conditions

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Last Updated: 03 January 2010  

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