Women’s Day Post: In Conversation with Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Tsitsi Dangarembga
Filmaker / Playwright / Poet / Activist
Photo Cred: Davina Jogi

 

 

This Women’s Month, my team and I really wanted to celebrate black African women (bAw) each day on our social media pages. To celebrate God’s gift of women who are making waves as activists, artists, and go-getters but also to celebrate our everyday sisters, friends, mothers and daughters. To be able to capture the essence of who the bAw truly is as formed by God.

I remember watching the movie “Neria” as a young girl and being moved by the plight of the widow Neria. That movie was ahead of its time and clearly highlighted the struggle of the black African woman in a patriarchal society. And so, it was a life-changing moment when my sister Rumbi reached out to the author of “Neria”, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and she agreed to engage in a conversation about her experience as a bAw.

Today, I would like to share her genuine and inspiring insights:

 


Rumbi Dube: What is the greatest hurdle you have had to overcome as an African woman?

Tsitsi Dangarembga: The greatest hurdle I have had to overcome as an African woman is lack of access to resources to maximize on my abilities, skills and achievements. Sometimes this hurdle manifests socially because society tells you that a black woman can only do this or this but not that. When society makes that decree, there is little to no support when you as a black woman opt to do the thing society has indicated you should not do.

This can even begin in the home as you grow up, because most of our families are patriarchal, this includes our mothers.  Many of us have had patriarchal mothers. I am glad to see some change in this respect, but there is still a long way to go.  At other times the hurdle is material, for example, when I have no access to resources, such as land and buildings to realise a dream that needs to go further.  At yet other times the hurdle is lack of access to human resources because men or political parties or patriarchal women – of which there are many – may not support your excellence.  The hurdle is also financial since, generally, as a black African woman, you are excluded from capital.

As a black African woman on the continent, you are generally relegated to donor aid and this donor aid is usually tied to political or another form of power.  It is also predicated on a world view that sees Africa as a continent of peasants who need to be saved.  So if you are not grass roots, and do not need to be saved, but need to be empowered to fly, you seldom qualify for donor aid.  I call this financial apartheid This brings me to the last hurdle in that the cumulative outcome of all these other hurdles is that one’s ability to contribute to one’s community and society is seriously compromised.    

 

RD: What do you wish the black African woman would come to realise?

I wish black African women would come to realise that we have to work together, that when we work together we can produce more than the sum of what we produce individually.  I also wish that black African women would realise we have to pull ourselves together and stop accepting a victim identity.  A victim identity is extremely dangerous as it can become an excuse for all sorts of negative tendencies and behaviours.  When captured in a victim mentality, people tell themselves, ‘It’s all right for me to do this because…’  They justify actions that are clearly not acceptable.  This results in serious ills for society.  In short, a victim attitude encourages selfishness, which, in spite of the Kardashians, is not cool.

 

RD: Which African women inspire you?

TD: Women of my generation have few female role models on the continent.  We have to be the role models for ourselves and others.

 

RD: What legacy would you like to leave for other African women?

TD: I would like people to say of me, ‘She never, ever gave up’.   In terms of external results, in the same way that black African women are too often excluded from capital and ownership, we are excluded from representing ourselves in narrative as we see ourselves in our diversity, agency and beauty.  Narrative, like resources is power.

Narrative is particularly important because we learn about the world, come to understand it and communicate with each other through narrative.  The exclusion of black African women from narrative is another reason why we have few role models.  So my desire is to create a strong institution that can focus on telling the stories of African women from the point of view of African women in a way that is accessible to many and has powerful impact.  This means film, rather than writing.  Writing has its uses and I pursue it also, but film is ideal on the continent for reaching wide audiences.

A decade ago, having realized this, I designed a project called Hitting a High Note.  It was to portrait at least half a dozen exemplary African women of achievement in half hour documentaries to record their stories for posterity so as to act as inspiration for future generations.  Well, that project never saw the light of day.  But I persevere.  I have already begun setting up the institution.  It is called the African Women Filmmakers Hub. Our pilot programme is successfully being carried out in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Malawi with support from the Ford Foundation. The next step is to roll out the five year programme across the continent and to create an African women’s film fund that will exist for a minimum of five years in order to enable a critical mass of African women to tell the stories that are important to them.

 

RD: What does the future hold for Tsitsi Dangarembga?

TD: I have a confident expectation that I will realise my career dreams.  They all revolve around boosting the creative industries and growing the creative economy on the continent.  As human beings, our creativity is the path through which our inner being is manifest.  If we do not sustain our own creativity and its products, we will end up consuming and mimicking the products and creativity of others.  The world will be a poorer place if this happens and will not develop in the way that is intended, because black African women are on this planet to participate and contribute as much as everyone else.  Preventing their participation and contribution is preventing the great plan of being from coming to its best fruition.

 


 

Thank you Tsitsi for engaging with us and giving us insight into your journey and life as a bAw. It was humbling and encouraging to see that someone who has already achieved so much in her life faces similar challenges and struggles to us who are getting started. We wish you more love, joy and strength, as well as God’s best in all your future endeavours!

To my bAw family, I hope today is a special day for you as you are celebrated for being a beautiful creature of God! I also hope that the experiences of our fellow bAw, Tsitsi Dangarembga, encourage you to continue to pursue the purposes and goals God has placed on your life in spite of the resistance you may face. That we may truly band together and uplift one another as women in fulfilling the great work God has imparted on our lives.

Happy Women’s Days sisters!

With love,

Sonia Dee

 

 

About Tsitsi Dangaremba

Born in Mutoko, Zimbabwe, filmmaker, playwright, poet and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga completed her education in her home country, where she worked as a copywriter and started writing seriously as a poet and playwright. She obtained her Masters in Filmmaking from the German Film and Television Academy Berlin.  She has produced several documentaries and has credits on most of Zimbabwe’s feature film classics, including EVERYONE’S CHILD, which she co-wrote and directed.

She lives in Harare where she founded the production house Nyerai Films and the International Images Film Festival for Women.  She also founded the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa where she works as director.  She has received international awards for her prose and film work.  Her award winning short music KARE KARE ZAVKO (MOTHER’S DAY, 2005) was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H.E.R. Hike Event

H.E.R. Hike Poster - August 2017 Final Edit

We’re thrilled to announce our upcoming event in celebration of women! The Healing | Exhaling | Reflecting (H.E.R.) Hike aims to bring women together for a moment of reflection. We would like to encourage our fellow sisters to embrace the journey their on and take a moment to appreciate how far they’ve come. So often we focus on moving forward or on how far we have to go. This time, we want to take a moment to celebrate how far God has brought us.

H.E.R. Hike is for every woman who needs a moment to exhale, and what better way than out in nature at Kliepriviersberg Nature Reserve.

Hosted by the formidable Zandile “Zahr” Mqwathi, a drama therapist trainee, we want to get your endorphins kicking with the hike, followed by a lovely picnic and conversation about life and how far we’ve come.

Book your tickets here before space runs out. A big shoutout to our sponsors, including BOUNCE South Africa.

We hope to see you there!

Should you encounter any issues with purchasing your tickets please do not hesitate to contact us.

With love,

Sonia Dee

Guest Post: Kim’s Naked Selfie by Sikhonzile Ndlovu

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Photo Cred: Jeyjoo Online

 

This International Women’s Day (IWD) I am still reeling in shock following Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie. Not that I am totally surprised because it’s become a regular thing with her. But happening around the occasion of IWD, I  can’t help but wonder what ideals Kim is putting forward. For centuries, women have been marginalized, recognised more for their physical attributes than their intellectual capabilities. Yes Kim’s selfie has black tape over the ‘essentials’ but honestly the image leaves nothing to the imagination! She then says ‘When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL’. I know she is not alone in this and this is not an attack on her person.

 

Mass media often portrays women in ways that emphasise their sexuality.  Advertising, especially, has managed to commodify the female body. Then we have women who willingly display their naked bodies. Is this self-actualisation? Are they trying to prove a point? To who? Who is this for? I worry that such behaviour plays into the very stereotypes that we are trying to dismantle as women. Or I am the only one trying to reverse this negative portrayal?

 

I am also concerned about several young women out there who want to keep up with the Kardashians. As black African women (bAw) we need positive role models, who will drive home the point that as women we have much more to offer this world than our bodies.

 

Personally I am not against well-toned, curvy women, but I have everything against public display of one’s flesh most especially as a Christian. How will the world respect us when we present ourselves as nothing but sex objects? The bible says ‘know yea not that your body is the temple of God?’ Is this how we want to treat the temple of the living God?

 

Being a daughter, sister, mother and aunt, I want the girl-child to have positive role models. I want my daughter, especially, to know that she doesn’t have to be naked to feel beautiful. For those that don’t know, I have the prettiest daughter – made in the image of God. If we believe that we are made in His likeness, we will start appreciating ourselves more.

 

On this occasion of International Women’s Day, let us celebrate our beauty, but never forget the difference we can make in this world by giving of ourselves through serving others and uplifting the name of our Maker. Let us remember that the best we can offer the world is much more than our physical attributes.

 

With love,

Sikhonzile Ndlovu

 

Sis'Skhoe

Sis’Skhoe is a big sister of mine from Sandton Church, and a woman I respect and admire. She is a wife and a mother to a handsome young boy and a beautiful little girl. Skhoe is a Media & Communications Manager who conducts media research and advocacy on gender responsible portrayal. She is also in love with her Saviour Jesus Christ.

WOMEN’S DAY POST: The Self-Sacrificing bAw

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Photo Cred: Pinterest

This post is written ahead of the Women’s Day that we will be celebrating this month. One of my greatest passions lies in women and their growth and empowerment.

Over the past few months, I have spoken to 4 different black African women (bAw) who have expressed how they support and take care of those around them. These people that they care for are siblings, parents, partners/boyfriends and/or even friends. These women help with school fees or life expenses, as well as being a shoulder to cry on as their loved one faces tough times. For years now these women have gone without certain things, including investments that they would have benefited from because of their desire/need to support others around them. These are young and middle-aged women.

I was also watching Sarafina for the 2nd time (since childhood) the other weekend and I noticed how she too seemed to be the carer of the children by her home and she led other young people at her school. She gave of her time, her energy and resources for the greater good of others. I’ve seen it in how my Mother willingly gave up her job so that our family could travel with my father’s job, or how she would not buy new clothes for herself for months so that we could have new things. I think it’s the nature of women in general but I notice it so distinctly amongst bAw. This is possibly because these are who I engage with the most. And anyway, we’re trying to understand the bAw more.

The reason I decided to write about this is because of something each of these 4 different and unrelated women expressed. They essentially highlighted the fact that they have helped out the people in their lives (especially the men in their lives) out of feelings of guilt or obligation. They may have even tried to reduce their assistance towards these people but felt obliged in the end to continue giving it. Not only that, but these sisters are waking up to the fact that they desire to be taken care of too and to enjoy life as well. To not carry such heavy responsibility but to experience (in some cases) the childhood they did not have the chance to experience because from a young age they were too busy caring for others.

When I read/hear the stories of bAw, I see how much of a burden they have carried for centuries. The bAw has in some instances died to herself so as to seemingly give life to others around her. She has supressed her own goals and desires to fulfil those of children or husbands or brothers or sisters or cousins or friends etc. first. I can relate to an extent to this myself. For a long time I believed that loving another meant that I gave them everything before thinking of myself. It’s as though that is the code of living that is injected in the bloodstream of the majority of bAw from childhood. At a gathering in my country and culture, the women serve food to others first before serving themselves. After having slaved away at preparing a meal for a large group of people, we women dish it out for the children and the men, then we dish for ourselves. We eat almost in a rush because we then have to clear up and make sure everyone else’s needs are still being met. I sometimes do not enjoy family gatherings/occasions because of this. This is just an example that comes to my mind.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe my culture carries some truly valuable lessons. Christ Himself has emphasised the fact that it is better to serve than to be served (Mark 10:43-45). We ought to love others and give to others. However, I believe that He desires us to be balanced about this too. Because this same God highlights in Leviticus 19:18 that we ought to love others as we love ourselves. This is something that I believe the bAw has overlooked for a long time. And this is something that I think has started to illuminate the minds of these 4 women I engaged with. They desire to be loved in as much as they love. To receive in as much as they give. To truly live in as much as they have made it possible for others to live too.

I think that the bAw for years has not taken the time to truly love herself. She has been so pre-occupied with loving others instead. But, my dear bAw, there is no better time than now to begin loving yourself. I have been fascinated by one of the instructions they give passengers on board an aircraft when they are relaying safety regulations. They inform you of where your oxygen mask will fall from should there be a need for it and how to use it. But, they do not stop there. They proceed to mention that you should put the mask on yourself first before you assist children or the elderly or those who cannot help themselves. The natural thought would be to help the others first, right? But then when you think about it you could pass out before you can properly aid others, which would leave you and them in a worse off position than before. This shows me that we are unable to properly and healthily help others if we have not nourished ourselves first.

I hope that the bAw finds no shame or guilt in choosing to love herself first. I believe that Christ had such a deep and healthy love for Himself which is why He was able to fully and perfectly love the entire world. Which is why He was able to die a terrible death for billions of people! That can only come from a truly assured person. Self-sacrifice should not be misunderstood. When it is misinterpreted, it injures not just you but those who you come in contact with. I am glad to see that the bAw is waking up to this truth slowly but surely. May we learn what it means to value and love ourselves the way God wants us to so that we can give even more to those we desire to love and support. As we go through this Women’s Month let us learn to truly cherish ourselves as women.

What are your wishes/desires for women this month? What are your desires for yourself this month?

Remember that I’m praying for you!

With love,

Sonia Dee