In 2019, Zimbabwean comedy made international news when comedian Samantha Kureya, known on stage as Gonyeti, was abducted and tortured by masked gunmen.

She is one of many comedians in Zimbabwe who have faced violent repercussions for their comedy. Interviewing 23 stand-up comedians in Zimbabwe in 2018 and 2019, I was made aware of how several comedians had been intimidated, harassed, or arrested because they joked about the “wrong” political party, policy, or decision.

Samm Farai Monro, aka Comrade Fatso, points out how artists in the nation joke: "You have freedom of expression but not freedom after expression."

This highlights the potency of Zimbabwean comedy. After all, as I argued recently, stand-up comedy has become one of the few spaces in the repressive Zimbabwean environment where people speak out in front of a crowd. The possibilities that emerge from this are evident when female comedians resist patriarchal power relations through stand-up.

In Zimbabwe the public sphere is regulated through gender norms that tend to delegitimise female actors when they try to make a claim at political power.

Zimbabwean academic Gibson Ncube highlights this in a paper that points out that female politicians have often been described either negatively as “whores” or “witches” when attempting to claim power, or positively as “mothers” when taking a more submissive role. This kind of reproduction of sexism through language in the Zimbabwean public space can also be seen in stand-up comedy.

During my research, where I interviewed comedians, observed shows, and talked to audiences, I identified only six active female stand-ups in Zimbabwe—highlighting that sexism affects women’s decision to engage in the art.

Read the full article about women comedians in Zimbabwe by Amanda Källstig at Global Citizen.