Black Women Walking Zimbabwe: Refuge and Prospect in the Landscapes of Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and Its Sequel, The Book of Not
- Research in African Literatures
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 41, Number 3, Fall 2010
- pp. 88-111
- Additional Information
Since the nineteenth century, land in Zimbabwe has been an immensely contested site with far-reaching implications in the socioeconomic and political scenario, first, between Africans of different ethnicities and, subsequently, between these Africans and European immigrants. Thus, a plurality of contesting narratives addressing the land question either directly or indirectly exist more so today than ever before in a scenario where the land question has become inextricably linked to Zimbabwe’s political future. In this essay, I show how black Zimbabwean women in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not and Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins find prospect, refuge, and voice in their ancestral landscapes. While many critics have analyzed the works of these two authors individually or compared them with other authors, few have made a detailed study comparing these two black Zimbabwean female writers, with Shona and Ndebele heroines respectively. These works exhibit a de-silencing of women through landscape and a finding of womanist spaces of refuge in it, spaces thatare liberatory and enable women to perform a psychological, economical, and even a bodily emancipation instead of using mental breakdowns as “tools for female autonomy in situations of powerlessness” as theorized by Ketu H. Katrak. I focus on this aspect of women and landscape extending the work of critics such as Christopher Okonkwo, Michel Foucault, Barbara Britton Wenner, and Robert Rotenberg. In addition, I use Dangarembga’s ethnic unhu (or hunhu) philosophy, defined as the “I am well if you are well too” view of the universe in her novel The Book of Not, to read Vera’s subversive use of landscape as an umbilical-cord-connection between people and place in her novel The Stone Virgins. Both authors alternatively admire and satirize the improvement of Zimbabwean landscape while simultaneously creating free spaces that their heroines can occupy and transform. The essay, therefore, tries to offer a more complete picture of these authors and their heroines and the ways their larger and personal histories as women interact to shape their lives in a Zimbabwean landscape complicated by race, ethnicity, and class.