Nervous Conditions

by benjamin73

Ben Turland

Nervous Conditions is a novel by the psychologist, director and writer Tsitsi Dangarembga. She hails from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and was educated between the white culture of Britain and black majority country of her homeland Africa. This possible balancing dilemma for Dangarembga is a major theme in her work of Nervous Conditions. This story begins slowly, but becomes more gripping and exciting as you learn more about the characters. This story is narrated by Tambu and is about her educational journey and her quest to try to balance white culture with her black, homestead culture. Tambu also observes how damaging it can be if these cultures are not balanced correctly.

This novel takes place in Rhodesia and you follow Tambu a girl who comes from an extremely poor family. Tambu is given the chance to achieve an education when her brother dies. Tambu states “I was not sorry when my brother died” because she did not like who her brother Nhamo was becoming. Nhamo was forgetting about his family and where he came from. He cared more about the mission school he attended. Tambu is given the chance to receive her education from the same school Nhamo went to and even better, eventually going to Europe to a Convent to study. But Tambu vows not to become like Nhamo and to remember her roots; which she finds is easier said then done.

A theme that can be seen in this novel is the good and bad of white culture and the balancing of those cultures. If it is a bad balancing act then damage can be done. There is a huge distinction between Tambu and her cousin Nyasha. Two girls of similar age but the balancing act of cultures is very diverse. Tambu starts off in a poor African homestead and works at home instead of going to school. Tambu eventually receives the chance to go to the mission school. While living with her Uncle Babamakuru she embraces the white culture and while at home she is able to balance white culture and do homestead duties. Tambu is not perfect but she always remembers that she is going to school to help her family. Tambu benefits from the white culture and receives an education. Tambu is skilled at balancing the two cultures. Nyasha is not as fortunate. The damage can be seen of not being able to balance two cultures. Nyasha moved from Africa to England at a young age so her parents could get their Masters. When they returned back to Africa .Nyasha could not speak the native tongue and was not use to the culture. Nyasha was African but was familiar mostly with being white. Her parents did not do a good job at balancing the cultures in England. When they returned to Africa, Nyasha was forced into a new culture and she could not adapt. She fought with her dad even hitting him, started to smoke, and became bulimic. She became so stressed she snaps. “Nyasha could not be ill, that Africans did not suffer in the way we had described”. Nyasha could not balance African and white culture, and it caused her significant damage.

Tambu in the novel is the most successful balancer of African and white culture. This challenge of balancing white and African is a hard thing to grasp and this novel shows that. This book was slow at the beginning, once the story began the characters and their stories were interesting and real.


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