Rafiki, a film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu that depicts lesbian love, has been recognized at the largest African film festival, Fespaco. The festival has awarded Samantha Mugatsia “best actress” for her portrayal of Kena Mwaura.
According to IMDb, the film tells the tale of Kena and Ziki, two girls who “long for something more. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.” It is inspired by the short story “Jambula Tree” by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko.
IMAGE VIA HUMANMOVENT
The award is significant because the film is banned in Kenya, the country it was directed in—an extension of the laws against homosexuality in the country.
The laws, though “recent” as far as their imposition in 20th century by British colonial rule, seem to reflect public opinion of much of the country; 90 percent of respondents to a Pew survey conducted in Kenya in 2013 said that “society should not accept homosexuality.” The laws and public aversion to homosexuality fuel each other in a hateful cycle, since “family members and neighbors sometimes report suspected homosexuals to the police.”
IMAGE VIA PINKNEWS
The country’s High Court is set to either uphold or overturn its ruling against gay sex on May 24th, several months after it was originally supposed to decide in February.
In the midst of such conflicting public opinion, the film’s being recognized by Fespaco is an undeniable achievement, and hopefully foreshadows what’s to come for gay rights in Kenya!