Tsitsi Dangarembga scoops PEN freedom of expression award

By Kudakwashe Vhenge

Renowned novelist, poet, playwrite cum activist Tsitsi Dangarembga has been conferred with the PEN International 2021 Award for freedom of expression.

The awards ceremony was held virtually at the Winternachten International Literature Festival, The Hague this evening.

The prestigious global is awarded annually to one writer who would have been outstanding in fighting for freedom of expression.

The PEN Award for Freedom of Expression this year honoured the Zimbabwean authour for her remarkable work in fighting for freedom of expression.

In an interview with Bustop TV, Dangarembga attributed her recognition of the prestigious award to her book “This Mournable Body” which was longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 a few days before her arrest after she participated in the anti-corruption protests in July.

She also highlighted that the award is of importance as it brings to the fore issues of
creative economy development, amplifying of women’s voices as well as democratic freedom that she has always stood up for.

“The significance of awards is generally in the awareness they bring to one’s work. I am hoping this award will raise awareness about the issues I stand for and work for, which involve Zimbabwean and African creative economy development, capacitation and industrialisation, women’s voices and participation within that as well as democratic freedom, dignity and opportunity for all in Zimbabweans, built upon good governance and the rule of just law”‘, said Dangarembga.

In his congratulatory message to Dangarembga, PEN Zimbabwean President Elisha July expressed gratitude to PEN International for the recognition of one of their founding members and added that she (Tsitsi) gives them courage to fight for rights of literary work producers and the general citizenry as enshrined in the constitution.

“At PEN Zimbabwe, we feel profoundly humbled by  the recognition  of one of our own, Tsitsi Dangarembga to the exalted hall of fame among the country’s foremost champions of one of the key fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution –  The Freedom of Expression”.

Tsitsi took a stand, as must all of us, in fighting for that which is just. Many of us may lack the fortitude to face the might of those that wield the power but people like Tsitsi have shown us that it can be done,” said July.

Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested after on 31 July 2020 for staging a demonstration against the country’s deteriorating economy and against the arrest of prominent Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume.

She was charged with inciting public violence and spend a night behind bars.

For the past sixteen years, PEN International has given the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression  to honour writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue to work despite the dire consequences.

Last year the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression was given to prominent Ugandan academic, writer and feminist activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi.

Dr. Nyanzi was sentenced to 18-months in prison for ‘cyber harassment’ in November 2018. This was in relation to a poem she wrote on Facebook criticising President Museveni and his mother.

The PEN Award for Freedom of Expression is the first of a series of events in 2021 marking the PEN International Centenary, 100 years after it was established.