A Shona assessment of evolving missionary Christianity in Zimbabwe
Beginning before the wave of African decolonisation of the 1960s but accelerating noticeably thereafter, both Christians and non-Christians across much of the continent created retrospective literary reconstructions of the impact of missionary Christianity on traditional societies. They thereby added important perspectives, many of them highly critical, on the saga of the church in Africa. One of the few female indigenous observers was the Shona novelist, Tsitsi Dangarembga (b. 1959), whose award-winning Nervous Conditions was published in 1988. Though bitingly critical in some respects, Dangarembga came neither to bury nor to praise, and her insights amalgamate disparagement of European condescension and heavy-handedness with acknowledgment of instances of missionary respect for indigenous culture. She also emphasised that religious intolerance was not an exclusively European phenomenon.