The Burden of Womanhood in Nervous Conditions
In the world that surrounds us today, kids all over are constantly frustrated and annoyed with education. But what if kids didn’t have the opportunity to gain an education? Would that be a gift or a burden? For a kid coming from lots of conflict, poverty, and oppression, education may be neither a gift or a burden. So the text that answers the question above is “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga. This is told from the perspective of a young Rhodesian girl by the name of Tambu. Tambu endures many challenges and struggles while trying to seek education like her late brother Nhamo. She fails to understand that this would be a difficult task due to her being a woman, along with her attempt to transform to English ways while seeking education. This essay will be proving how Tambu’s challenges will prevent her from getting away from poverty and oppression. First, it will be shown that Tambu will never get away from the poverty and oppression in colonized Africa because her transformation to English ways disrupts the ways of her native culture. Next, Tambu’s life away from the homestead while seeking education seems as a getaway but is surrounded by her family conflict/oppression. Lastly, Dangarembga’s idea of African womanhood is reflected as a burden to Tambu due to the struggles and treatment she endures. Although education is considered the key to getting away from poverty and oppression in colonized Africa, Tambu understands she’ll never getaway because of her native culture, family oppression, and the burden of womanhood.
Tambu will never get away from the poverty and oppression in colonized Africa because her transformation to English ways disrupts the ways of her native culture. Tambu is taught about her culture and family history. Colonization causes natives to lose their land and culture, and the colonizers enslaved natives. In chapter 2 Tambu’s grandmother states, “… lured by the wizard’s whispers of riches and luxury and driven by the harshness of the homestead, took himself and his family to one of their wizard farms. Only to find that they had been enticed into slavery.”. Tambu’s family history with the English had caused them to be enslaved. This is a message to show Tambu how seeking education through the English may be a trap to pull her away from her native culture. English colonization has promoted the physical and mental conditions at which the Rhodesians live through. Jean Paul-Sartre stated, “The condition of the native is a nervous condition.”. The modernized ways of the English live by are much more industrialized than those of Tambu’s Shona culture. The quote above gives deeper meaning to Tambu’s conditions as a Rhodesian based on the act of “assimilation” she endures. Tambu also has a hard time finding balance between life at the school and life at the homestead. Tambu stated, “I was going to be developed in the way that Babamukuru saw fit, which in the language I understood at the time meant well. Having developed well I did not foresee that there would be reason to regress on the occasions that I returned to the homestead.”(Pg.59). In order for Tambu to transition towards Education, she has to focus on English ways and forget her native culture. Tambu’s transition from Rhodesia to English ways has disrupted the ways of her native culture due to the imbalance and differences between the two.
Tambus life away from the homestead, while seeking education, seems as a get away but is surrounded by her family’s conflicts and oppression. Before Tambu goes off to seek education, she states that all the oppression and tension she endures is because of her deceased brother. In chapter 1 Tambu stated, “ I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor am I apologizing for my callousness…”(Pg.1). Tambu feels as if had Nhamo never passed away, she wouldn’t have ever been in the middle of conflicts. Babamukuru role in the family was formed towards the idea that he was the head of power. In chapter 8 Tambu stated, “My vagueness and my reverence for my uncle, what he was, what he had achieved, and what he represented and therefore what he wanted, had stunted the growth of my faculty of criticism, sapped the energy that in childhood I had used to define my own position.”(Pg.164). Everyone had to follow what he said and what he wanted to happen because of him being educated and being a male. His decisions left many unhappy, but it was what they had to follow by. Everyone looked up to him. Tambu is stressed over her parents wedding, which falls back on her because she is confused and upset. This causes her to run away. In chapter 8 Tambu said, “I knew I had not taken a stand on many issues since coming to the mission, but all along I had been thinking that it was because there had been no reason to…”(Pg. 164). Everything was falling back on Tambu, even after escaping life at the homestead. Tambu realized the “getaway” of leaving the homestead and seeking education wasn’t a getaway at all. The issues at home were even worse because she felt trapped.
Dangarembga’s idea of African womanhood is reflected as a burden to Tambu due to the struggles and treatment she endures. Mainini’s view of being a woman impacts how Tambu fails to understand that being a woman in their native culture is a burden. In chapter 2 it stated, “ This business of womanhood is a heavy burden, how could it not me?…When there are sacrifices to be made, you are the one who has to make them.”(Pg.16). Maininis outlook on life is that being Rhodesian is a burden, as well as being a woman because they have to give birth and raise children. Tambu doesn’t believe Maininis’ outlook is the truth. Women of Rhodesian culture are always looked down upon, unless they have an education, yet they’re still barriers to how they’re viewed. In chapter 8 Tambu pondered, “When I had been educated, I would find a job and settle down to it, carrying on, in the time that was available before I was married into a new home, Babakmukuru’s great work of developing a family.”(Pg.151). Getting an education was considered well-doing of a woman. Although this was an important accomplishment and goal for Tambu, it wouldn’t have been enough to impress Babamukuru. Tambu understands that the struggles and ways women were treated have never been a priority to her culture and family, therefore women had been looked down upon. In chapter 1 Tambu stated, “ The needs and sensibilities of women in my family were not considered a priority, or even legitimate…I felt the injustice of my situation every time I thought about it.”(Pg. 15). African womanhood has improved Tambu’s life by showing her how it is a burden based upon the struggles and gender barriers she endures.
Due to her native culture, family conflicts and oppression, and the burden of womanhood, Tambu understands that she’ll never get away from the poverty and oppression she endures while trying to seek. After reading this essay it should be known that Tambu will never get away from the poverty and oppression in colonized Africa because her transformation to English ways disrupts the ways of her native culture, Tambu’s life away from the homestead, while seeking education, seems as a getaway but is surrounded by her family conflicts and oppression, and Dangarembga’s idea of african womanhood is reflected as a burden to Tambu due to the struggles and treatment she endures. The overall message that this essay tends to show is that no matter how hard you try you will never get rid of or get away from where you come from. Tambu fails to understand this in many ways, but in the end she finally understands. So to answer the question “Is opportunity to access education, when coming from poverty and oppression, a gift or a burden?”, for Tambu it’s a burden. She’d never be able to get away from the poverty or oppression she was raised into because “The condition of a native is a nervous condition”.
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