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Inside/Out with Tsitsi Dangarembga
August 05, 2009

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Describe yourself in five words?
Sad, incorruptible, creative, hopeful, indomitable.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
If an organisation doesn't have vision, leave it.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
You don't want to know.

What is your most treasured possession?
Right now a book by Karen Armstrong, an ex-nun who has written extensively on spirituality and spiritual journeys. This one is called THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION: THE WORLD IN THE TIME OF BUDDHA, SOCRATES, CONFUCIUS AND JEREMIAH.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A country torn apart because people have no integrity.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
Not really. When I can afford to, I go to the gym and then I grow strong enough to jog into town from Borrowdale. My other hobby is work. I love my work - writing, filmmaking, mentoring young filmmakers and writers and setting up training programmes for them. I love seeing young people come out of their shells and discover they have their own special God-given talents that they can develop and share with the world.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Nothing. I think I look pretty good for my age. Except my last hair dresser burnt my hair a few months ago, so I can't pull my dreads back, not even when I'm out for a business meeting. As I said, though, the dreads look pretty good down . . .

What is your greatest extravagance?
Clothes. I love clothes and the better designed, cut and tailored, the better. When I have a bit extra, I don't mind splashing out on a good champagne, but that hasn't happened in more than a decade! And I've only been able to indulge the clothes thing recently too, thanks to a reasonably well paid lecture tour in USA..

What have you got in your fridge?
Not much at the moment. We ordered a whole pig a few months ago but have just about finished it. There's some lettuce and half an avocado left over from lunch, plus a bit of last week's pumpkin pie. I am really glad though, that there's enough milk for the children.

What is your greatest fear?
Not being able to support my children.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
Nothing! I'm wearing my dressing gown.

What is your favourite journey?
My favourite journey is to myself and back, seeing all the flaws on the way there, not being afraid, but asking for grace to fix them on the way back. I don't like traveling physically, as I have to do quite a bit in my field of work.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Whitney Houston. I love women who go there and come back. They bring back so much wisdom. Which is not to say they might not go again, but that is the journey.

When and where were you happiest?
I am basically a happy person, even when I am depressed. I look at all the things I've been given - my work that does positive things for thousands, if not millions of people, the fact that my work creates jobs for others. I look at my family, my home, the people I've mentored even after we've parted ways, the people who've helped me when I'm down and out, the plans I have, the successes past, what I've learnt from despicable types who've cheated me and mine. My faith and spirituality. My conviction that something can be done and we have to do it. That adds up to happiness everyday for me, even if you find me crying my heart out about one particular incident. The sadness is the moment. Happiness prevails.

What's your biggest vice?
I have a temper, but I am learning to reign it in - I hope my family agrees. I am also allowing myself in my approaching old age to be a little selfish.

What were you like at school?
Quiet, studious, a nerd. Don't know what people call them these days. Quite frankly I was introverted because I was scared out of my skull about just about everything most of the time, and the only thing I seemed good at was memorising the notes the teachers gave and regurgitating it, so that was what I did. I also read a lot.

What are you doing next?
I'm putting my life together. My life revolves round my arts and my country, which is my home. So I need to play my role in making the arts play their part in getting Zimbabwe out of the mess we are in. As well as making a couple of short films and finishing my next novel - the last in the Tambudzai trilogy, where two chapters are left, and making sure the eighth edition of the International images Film Festival for Women IIFF runs superbly from 20 November to 28 November in Harare, and 3 November to 5 November in Bulawayo, I simply have to get stuck into making Zim a Mecca for arts. We've got to get our product right up there onto the international scale. Don't quite know how, but that's half the fun! At the moment I'm trying to send out the message of partnerships and collaboration. Don't know whether we Zimbabweans have developed any capacity for that yet generically, but we'll have to in the end. I must say, though that some local organisations like Global Arts, Pamberi Trust, the Dance Foundation Course and Gallery Delta seem to be very clued up on that principle. I hope more arts organisations will get the message and follow suit. Can you imagine what great productions we Zimbabweans could make? We could have the whole world looking at us and thinking that is THE place, if we pooled our talents. I suppose this doesn't just apply to the arts.

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