Tsitsi Dangarembga awarded the 2021 PEN Freedom of Expression Prize

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Tsitsi Dangarembga has been shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize for her novel This Mournable Body (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)
Tsitsi Dangarembga has been shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize for her novel This Mournable Body (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)
Jemal Countess/WireImage
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean novelist, playwright and filmmaker.
  • In addition to acknowledging her literary contributions, this award recognises Dangarembga as an activist. 
  • The award will be conferred at the Winternachten International Literature Festival on 13 January 2021. 


Human rights organisation, English PEN champions the freedom to read and write. With the help of a community of writers, readers and activists, the organisation looks to protect freedom of speech, support writers facing persecution for their words while celebrating writers through a number of literary prizes, grants and events. 

To kick off 2021 the organisation is honouring Tsitsi Dangarembga with the PEN Freedom of Expression Award. The PEN Freedom of Expression award "honours writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue to work despite the consequences". In addition to acknowledging her literary contributions, the award recognises her activism in Zimbabwe. Last year Dangarembga was one of many activists who were arrested while protesting against the government suppressing dissent. Protests were sparked by the unlawful incarceration of journalist Hopewell Chino’ono. 

In 1988 Dangarembga introduced readers to femme protagonist Tambudzai in the novel Nervous Conditions. Here Tambudzai explores the economic and social come up of Zimbabwean citizens. This continues in The Book of Not (2006) and This Mournable Body (2018) with the latter foregrounding Zimbabwe’s political landscape. 

Last year’s winner of the Freedom of Expression Award was Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a Ugandan writer, academic and activist. She won the award after President Yoweri Museveni ordered for Nyanzi to be arrested for “cyber harassment” after she questioned his leadership on social media. 

This year the award will be conferred at the Winternachten International Literature Festival on 13 January 2021. 

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