Rowland Bismark's Reviews > Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
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May 17, 10

really liked it
Read in January, 2003

The Influence of Colonialism

The essential action of the novel involves Tambu’s experiences in a Western-style educational setting, and the mission school both provides and represents privileged opportunity and enlightenment. Despite Ma’Shingayi’s strong objections, Tambu knows the only hope she has of lifting her family out of poverty lies in education. However, the mission school poses threats, as well: Western institutions and systems of thought may cruelly and irreversibly alter native Africans who are subjected to them. Nyasha, who has seen firsthand the effect of being immersed in a foreign culture, grows suspicious of an unquestioning acceptance of colonialism’s benefits. She fears that the dominating culture may eventually stifle, limit, or eliminate the long-established native culture of Rhodesia—in other words, she fears that colonialism may force assimilation. The characters’ lives are already entrenched in a national identity that reflects a synthesis of African and colonialist elements. The characters’ struggle to confront and integrate the various social and political influences that shape their lives forms the backbone and central conflict of Nervous Conditions.
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