Photograph: Hannah Mentz

Tsitsi Dangarembga is the 2022 Brittle Paper Activist of the Year for her brave fight against injustice and her demand for government reform. She is an award-winning Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and human rights activist.

Dangarembga is a successful writer whose impact in the literary world extends to the fight for social justice. With her culture-shifting books and activism, she recalls the commitment of writers such as Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong, and Stella Nyazi who have fearlessly gone up against powerful systems, inspiring readers with their writing as well as fighting for a better world.

On September 30, Dangarembga and fellow activist Julie Barnes received a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a fine of around 120 USD for inciting violence and causing public unrest, a verdict that PEN International rightfully described “a mockery of justice.” Dangarembga and Barnes were originally arrested in 2020 while engaging in a peaceful protest. They were carrying placards asking the government to release investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, wrongfully arrested for exposing an alleged COVID-19 intervention scandal.

Her activism is also evident in her writing, through which she has exposed patriarchal power, class interests, and corruption of state power.  Dangarembga is best known for her novel Nervous Conditions (1988) which follows a Zimbabwean girl growing up in postcolonial Rhodesia in the 1960s.  This Mournable Body published in 2018 depicts the political landscape of Zimbabwe and was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Her latest book Black and Female (2022) was published this year and is an essay collection weaving the personal and political as it explores Dangarembga’s relationship with race and gender using her own life experiences as examples.

Last year, Dangarembga won the 2021 PEN Award for Freedom of Expression for her “contribution and commitment to free speech around the world despite the dangers of political persecution.” As she notes in her acceptance speech, her work has always brought an “unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world while exhibiting a fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.”

Dangarembga’s words and actions shine bright in the face of oppressive governments and systems. As we close out this year, we want to celebrate and honor her for having the tremendous courage and bravery to protest against injustice and stand for free speech and public accountability even at the cost of her own life.

Thank you Tsitsi Dangarembga!