Maiguru and Hybridity


A tension between two things results in a nervous condition. Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions explores the nervous conditions that have developed in Zimbabwe due to colonization. It resulted in gender tensions because of the loss of land and money that occurred. Maiguru, Babamukuru's wife, is torn between her desires and her husband's, and her place in the Shona lifestyle versus her English education. When Tambu first arrives at the mission school, she describes Maiguru as "too modest" and "my sweet little aunt, who liked to please" (72, 73). This description of Maiguru paints her as a humble, subservient women. Nyasha is at odds with her mother because she always sides with Baba and doesn't stand up for herself.

When Tambu discovers Maiguru has a Master's Degree, a different side of Maiguru is revealed. Tambu thought she just went to take care of Baba and Maiguru became serious and it "changed her from a sweet, soft dove to something more like a wasp" (102). This shows her two sides clearly - her loving, motherly one and her opinionated, educated one. Maiguru tries to be merry as she explains, "in England I glimpsed for a little while the things I could have been . . . if - if - if things were - different - But there was Babawa Chido and the children and the family. And does anyone realise, does anyone appreciate, what sacrifices were made?" (103). Maiguru is torn between her own desires, opinions, and possible opportunities and her obligations to her family, similar to Tambu. Maiguru, though, choses her family, not herself. She follows the will of her husband, even if he is taking her salary. While Nyasha may feel like her mother doesn't care about her, when Baba was attacking Nyasha Maiguru pleaded "if you must kill somebody, kill me. But my daughter, no, leave her alone" (117).

Maiguru finally has enough of the stress her nervous condition is causing her, as she is viewed as nothing while she has a Master's Degree, and she leaves the house for five days (174). Her gender makes her invisible in her family, even though she has the same level of education as Baba, who is viewed as a deity. In those five days, though Tambu disagrees, Maiguru was able to escape her nervous condition by becoming a hybrid her two roles - the sweet, loving wife and mother, and the educated, opinionated woman. This hybrid Maiguru was more true to herself as "she smiled more often . . . and was more willing or able to talk about sensible things" (178).

This image visually captures the concept that people are hybrids of different cultures and different backgrounds. Nervous conditions can often be overcome when one comes to realize or accept their hybridity. Trying to chose one side or ignore the problem heightens the tension between the two things that are in conflict. Maiguru was able to balance her two sides and actually escape, even though she physically continued to live in Baba's house.

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