Learn more about: Education in Rhodesia
In 19th century colonized Rhodesia, a new formal system of education emerged to “supplement and gradually replace
traditional non-formal education” or village schools. All interests were those of the British and not of the natives; settlers would use education for economic gain, the government would raise the minority to a higher status and thus promote white supremacy, and the environment would become far more secure and palatable for whites living in a black-dominated territory.
Later a Legislative Council was established in the colony with no African representatives seated on this powerful, influential body. All legislation supporting integrated schooling was denied. When conflict broke out, a policy was created to quell any further rebellion and subdue the African natives. This policy allowed racially segregated education, although missionary schools were not compulsory as formal schools were for whites. For founder Cecil Rhodes, education was about the so-called gradual transition of the natives from barbarians to civilians. This racist, elitist institution would continue until Rhodesia’s independence, although because of colonial rule the African population would still be woefully under-formed politically and financially, and such factors have contributed to the education disparities modernly.
(Hungewe, Kedmon. “Educational Policy in African Colonial Contexts: The Case of Instructional Media in Southern Rhodesia (193o-1980).” African Study Monographs, vol. 15, no. 1, 1994, pp. 1-36)
Learn more about: Dangarembga’s Trilogy
Nervous Conditions recounts “Tambu’s determination to get an education and escape the poverty she was born into.” At the end of the novel, she succeeds. But the pressures of family and the constraints of colonialism, as well as the aftermath of the Rhodesian Bush War, still play significant roles in her life. Thus in the sequel, The Book of Not, Tambu sets to redefine those threatening political and personal forces. This second installment was released in 2006, and 30 years after the author’s acclaimed debut, she returned with a book to complete her trilogy: This Mournable Body (2018).
New York Times reviewer Alexandra Fuller writes that this “isn’t a dreary story, though it’s a tough one.” Tambu is an adult applying and failing to obtain job after job while also suffering the indignities of sexism, racism, and the societal expectations of womanhood. Navigating these are hard work; the hopelessness of it all does impact the protagonist from time-to-time as she contemplates suicide and mourns her seemingly fruitless dreams. Yet the novel is one of of “triumph, not despair,” and a great companion for anyone who also feels lost in their own vast and unknowable future.
(Fuller, Alexandra. “30 Years After Her Acclaimed Debut, a Zimbabwean Novelist Returns to Her Heroine in a Sequel.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/books/review/tsitsi-dangarembga-this-mournable-body.html.)
Learn more about: Rhodesia’s War of Independence
Southern Rhodesia was Established in 1923 as a British colony named for Cecil Rhodes, Southern Rhodesia was a huge profit area for Britain; the country consolidated diamond mines and profited from labor exploitation of its native peoples. In the 1960s as Britain began to decolonize, Rhodesia refused, breaking with the United Kingdom in order to keep white men in power. Revolutionists were named terrorists and communists.
Also known as the Second Chimurenga and the Zimbabwe War of Liberation, it was a civil conflict that ranged from 1964 to 1979. The goal was to maintain white-minority rule over the black-majority territory, Rhodesia. There were 3 main forces in this war: the Rhodesian government, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army. A treaty was signed to end the war, but the sentiments about colonialism and white rule still remain.
Today, Rhodesia is used as an example and inspiration for many modern white nationalists. Clothing companies offer t-shirts with the recognizable slogan, “Make Zimbabwe Rhodesia again,” and also a less recognizable slogan encouraging wearers and readers to “Slot Floppies.” A ‘floppy’ in 60s/70s Rhodesia is comparable to the prominent racial slur we hear in the United States.
(Ismay, John. “Rhodesia’s Dead – but White Supremacists Have Given It New Life Online.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/magazine/rhodesia-zimbabwe-white-supremacists.html.)
Learn more about: The Unhu philosophy of personhood
Unhu, that profound knowledge of being, quietly and not flamboyantly; the
grasp of life and of how to preserve and accentuate life’s eternal interweaving
that we southern Africans are famed for, and what others call ‘ubuntu’. -Tsitsi Dangarrembga
Most humans struggle with moral character, whether on an intellectual, personal, emotional, or spiritual level. Day to day people wrestle with decisions of right and wrong. There are conceptual issues of responsibility, reasoning, reactivity. In Nervous Conditions, the characters themselves must face their individual conflicts, most of which can be extended to the nation at large. Many characters’ arcs, especially the women’s, are allegorical when related to patriarchy and worldwide colonialism.
Thus the Zimbabwean principle of unhu can be applied to national problems in a post-war era. This principle encourages examination of agency on various stages and how the acknowledgement of social ethics and the inersectionality of identities can only be beneficial in this tumultuous era of humanity. Unhu is about collective healing. It involves single people triumphing in order to improve the collective rather than achievement for only self-interest. While understanding that selfish desires exist and will continue to impact the community, it also lauds singular success as an extension of group success.
(Azodo, Ada Uzoamaka. “A Zimbabwean Ethic of Humanity: Tsitsi Dangarembga’s The Book of Not & the Unhu Philosophy of Personhood.” ALT 27 New Novels in African Literature Today, edited by Ernest N. Emenyonu et al. by CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE et al., NEW – New edition ed., Boydell and Brewer, 2010, pp. 117-129.)
Jasmine Edwards ’19