Tambudzai’s Struggle with Patriarchal Constrain

By Svetlana Fenichel

The story narrated by Tsitsi Dangarembga centers around two female cousins, Tambu and Nyasha, whose lives are stifled by the duality of oppression they are faced with as female Rhodesians.  From early years Tambudzai’s (Tambu for short) life was constructed by contradictions, injustice and social barriers she would have to destroy. Having an older brother and being a female herself, Tambudzai quickly learns how limited her life could be by definition. All the resources that her poor family possesses are directed to getting their older son, Tambu’s brother Nhamo educated. Whereas “the needs and sensibilities of the women in [Tambu’s] family were not considered priority, or even legitimate” (Dangarembga 12).

From early childhood Tambu is forced into succumbing patriarchal oppression. Her passionate inclination for education is abruptly diffused by both her parents. Her father’s argument is drown on the traditional perception of the role of a woman: “Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables” (Dangarembga 15). Tambu’s potential womanhood is valued above education, and is seen as far more practical in Rhodesian society. Her mother, however, presents a more insightful view on the position of women. She realizes the injustice of the system, but sees no solution or possibility of escape: “When there are sacrifices to be made, you are the one who has to make them. <…> And these days it even worse, with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other. Aiwa! What will help you, my child, is to learn to carry your burdens with strength” (Dangarembga 16).

Ultimately, Tambu rejects to comply with the imposed on her social role of a woman. She does gain  access to the best education in the country, however only “over her brother’s dead body.”  Nevertheless, the missionary education only further reinforces existing patriarchal agendas. The Convent education is “a cultural arm of colonial rule” (Ahmad 57). As Hena Ahmad avers, “just as for Zimbabwe, political independence brought the realization of the need for psychological decolonization so for Tambudzai her Convent education made her realize the need for the decolonization of her own thought” (57).

 

 

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