Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga, who recently won the PEN Pinter Prize, has been awarded the 2021 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for her creative work and social engagement.
Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, president of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association and chairperson of the Board of Trustees, announced Dangarembga as the winner of its annual Peace Prize on 21 June 2021.
Every year since 1950, the international prize valued at €25,000 (R422,600) has been awarded to someone ‘who has made an important contribution to peace, humanity and understanding between people’. Previous winners include Amartya Sen (2020), Margaret Atwood (2017), Orhan Pamuk (2005) and Chinua Achebe (2002).
The jury commended Dangarembga for combining ‘inimitable storytelling with a universally compelling perspective’. They said her trilogy of novels—Nervous Conditions (1988), The Book of Not (2006) and This Mournable Body (2018)—‘reveals social and moral conflicts that go far beyond regional references, thereby creating the stage for the discussion of globally relevant questions of justice’.
Dangarembga was the first Black Zimbabwean woman to publish a novel in English. Nervous Conditions received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989 and was translated into many languages. On 31 July 2020, the author was arrested for participating in an anti-corruption protest in Harare. Her arrest sparked an international outcry, and she was released on bail the next day.
The award ceremony will take place on Sunday, 24 October 2021, at the Church of St Paul in Frankfurt am Main, and will be broadcast live on German public television.
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has chosen to award the 2021 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Tsitsi Dangarembga. Zimbabwean novelist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga combines inimitable storytelling with a universally compelling perspective in a body of work that has made her not only one of the most important artists in her native land but also a popular and widely-recognised voice of Africa in contemporary literature.
In her acclaimed trilogy of novels, Tsitsi Dangarembga draws on the story of a young woman’s life from adolescence to middle age to depict the struggle for the right to live in dignity and the fight for female self-determination in Zimbabwe. In doing so, she reveals social and moral conflicts that go far beyond regional references, thereby creating the stage for the discussion of globally relevant questions of justice. In her films, she addresses issues that emerge from the clash of tradition and modernity. The messages she sends out via her work have successfully reached broad audiences both in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries.
Tsitsi Dangarembga has long since complemented her artistic work with a rigorous commitment to fostering creative industries in her home country and, in particular, opening up culture to female creators. At the same time, she has also fought tirelessly for civil liberties and political change in Zimbabwe. Her most recent peaceful protest is aimed at corruption, and she has already faced prosecution by the government for her efforts. “If you want your suffering to end, you have to act. Action comes from hope. This is the principle of faith and action.”
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association compiled an impressive list of the Dangarembga’s achievements from 1989 until today:
2021 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
2021 PEN Pinter Prize
2021 PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression
2020 Shortlist Man Booker Prize (This Mournable Body)
2008 Council of Zimbabwe’s Arts Service Prize
2006 UNESCO Children’s and Human Rights Award (Film: Spell My Name/Peretera Maneta)
2006 Winner Zanzibar International Film Festival, 2006 (Film: Spell My Name/Peretera Manet)
2006 Gender, Equality & Media Award, South Africa (Film: Growing Stronger)
2005 Winner of Golden Dhow Zanzibar (Film: Kare Kare Zvako)
2005 Winner of Short Film Award Cinemaafricano Milano (Film: Kare Kare Zvako)
2005 Short Film Award ZIFF (Film: Kare Kare Zvako)
1989 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize—Africa Section (Nervous Conditions)
Read more: Freidenspreis der Deutschen Buchhandels