Tag Archives: Cannes

Sheila nyota kuangaza- Sheila is a shinning star.

13 Nov

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The past Friday evening I attended the opening of the Joburg Film Festival which was held at the Hyatt Hotel in Johannesburg. The opening film was Rifiki Wanuri Kahiu.

Background on the film:
Rafiki, means Friend, is a Kenyan feature film that is directed by Wanuri Kahiu. Rafiki is the story of friendship and tender love that grows between two young women, Kena and Ziki, amidst family and political pressures. Without giving too much away, the story is about two beautiful souls who fall in love with each other but suffer abandonment due to the homophobic ideologies of their country. The film is set up against the colourful and vibrant streets of Nairobi, intertwining the beautiful landscape with the crazy and fast Kenyan lifestyle​. The story is beautiful, raw and real. Every character of the film tell their own stories and reveal their ideologies of life in Africa and their attitudes towards homosexuality. The writer and director narrated the beautiful love story in such a dynamic way, where you find yourself laughing, crying and feeling their angst, pain and emotional journeys. I love the way in which the director used the different elements of colours to illustrate the feminine powers of the two main characters. The love scenes were filmed in such a magnificent way that reflected the innocence and passion of the actors involved.
The story is not just about a lesbian relationship it allows us access into the politics of East Africa, how homophobic ideologies run through society and churches, the film is about friendship, jealousy and coming of age.

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I was really taken by the two lead actresses, Sheila Munyiva and Samantha Mugatsia. I had the great pleasure of meeting Sheila as she was in the country for the festival.
We sat down a few days after the premiere to chat and see what synergies we could create as women, activists, ​and storytellers.
It is no secret that I have an obsession with East Africa, I think it is about the beautiful culture and etiquette that runs through their communities and lives. When meeting Sheila one on one, her beauty, grace, ​and intellect shone through her bubbly personality and smile.
Sheila is Kenyan born, who discovered acting​ by default as she was working as a casting assistant​. She was approached by the director to play the role in the film and like a true professional​l she threw herself into the role and position that it required. Sheila shared how she received assistance from an acting coach before diving into the role and like a true thespian, she did her additional research on her character by engaging in dialogue with the LGBTQI community of Kenya. I salute the bravery of the cast and crew for working on such an important project. The film was banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) which stated: ”due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law”. The KFCB warned that anyone found in possession of the film would be in breach of the law in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by 14 years in jail. The ban raised international outrage by the supporters of LGBT rights.
The film’s director, Wanuri Kahiu, sued Kenya’s government, to allow the film to be screened and become eligible to be submitted as Kenya’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. On 21 September 2018, the Kenyan High Court lifted the ban on the film, allowing it to be screened in the country for seven days, therefore meeting the eligibility requirements. After the ban was lifted, the film was shown to a sold-out crowd at a cinema in Nairobi. The film has traveled​ to Cannes film festival and Sheila shared that when returning home, the cast and director all took different flights home to ensure they would not be arrested by Kenyan officials.

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Now back to the dynamic Sheila. As I mentioned she is an actress but her interests are vast and include communications, writing, casting, ​and entrepreneurship. She says that she driven by making a difference. ‘Growing up, I would look around and see so many things that I thought were unfair and that if done in a different way, things would be better. As a child, there’s not much that I could have done but now as a young black woman, all the power rests in my hands and I can make a difference. 
My true passion in life is acting, activism and filmmaking.’

She knows that her brand can be used as a vessel to carry so many messages and create awareness in​ many communities.
She is motivated by her mother and grandmother, Sir Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Libya, our own Nomzamo Mbatha a great woman, actor and speaker and my friend Moana Luu who is the head of Essence magazine.

She believes in pushing women empowerment not only for Kenyans but for Africa as a whole. As she encompasses all my passions, women, Africa and the arts, my next step was to ask what synergies we could create.
I am honoured that she has accepted my offer to be part of the Waka family. We aim to promote her as an actress, speaker, ​and activist for the continent and the world at large.
With her passion, talent and drive, the brand Sheila Munyiva will definitely light up the entertainment world, challenge archaic ideologies and she will be the voice for so many voiceless women.

Sheila nyota kuangaza- translated from Kiswahili, Sheila is a shining​ star.