The Observer (Kampala)

18 December 2012

Uganda: Who Are the Tendo Sisters?

The audience identifies them by the characters they play in Tendo Sisters, a TV series now in its third season, on various channels.

It is about four orphaned sisters who only have a land title as inheritance. One can mistake the four actresses for real sisters. Even when they are addressing one another, they find ease in using their screen names instead of their real names.

Like in the drama series, the eldest sister, Kisakye, still wields authority over her siblings Mukisa, Sanyu and Malaika, in real life. Joseph Kimbowa spent some time with the quartet.

Kisakye (Mariam Ndagire)

Kisakye, the eldest sister; mean and domineering. With the influence of her husband (Kikomeko), she convinces her sisters to give away the land title for a bank loan which they fail to repay and the land is confiscated.

Despite being the eldest, Kisakye leaves the responsibility of raising her siblings to Mukisa, the second born in the family.

Enter Mariam Ndagire: "I'm a very humble lady, reserved, respectful and shy. When it comes to the performing arts, however, I become a very confident person and I even wonder how I manage to be very authoritative in front of the camera.

Sometimes people call me wondering how a person of my character can pull off a mean role. I have one little sister. I don't think I'm mean to her; I just give her guidance and advice."

Mukisa (Farida Nabagereka)

She is the second eldest Tendo sister, a spinster with a good job to take care of her two younger sisters Sanyu and Malaika. She, however, has to constantly bear bullying from elder sister Kisakye.

She has a weakness of never deciding on men and ends up losing them to other women. This weakness works against her whenever she tries to advise her sisters on relationships - but she gets a man in season three. She is portrayed as an enduring passionate, responsible and harmonious woman.

In real life, Nabagereka's role fits her just right.

"Although I am not a spinster in real life, I'm a person who wants do things in a harmonious manner. I don't think I am a celebrity, although people recognize me wherever I go especially after we started airing on Bukedde TV. My inspiration lies in Mercy Johnson [a Nigerian] and Angelina Jolie, but it is Mariam Ndagire who has been my mentor," she says.

Sanyu (Sarah Naava)

Sanyu is the third-born Tendo sister. The first season starts when she is a freshman at university, which changes her from a humble and respectful village girl to a rebellious and outgoing girl - dating men for money. With Malaika as her confidante, Sanyu becomes a problem to their guardian, Mukisa.

In real life, Naava is a married woman with children and owns a boutique - Naava's Salon in Wakaliga.

"I like my role and character; I have great love for my siblings. My dream is to become a top celebrity and earn big money. Uganda's film industry is growing fast and equipment is improving slowly," she says. "My favourite actor is Ramsey Noah."

Malaika (Jamila Mulindwa)

She is the youngest Tendo sister, portrayed as a lazy and childish teenager in high school. But she acts a pivotal loving sister who always comes out to intervene in the misunderstandings of her older sisters - who constantly downplay her comments.

Malaika represents 'Good and innocence'. Her close relationship with Sanyu creates sisters' trust and confidentiality. In season three Malaika transforms into a responsible young lady in her vacation. Outside the series, Mulindwa, the third born in her family, is still the same childish girl.

"I think I fit very well in my role - because of size and character. People say that I'm childish in real life though I don't take myself as one."

"I like my role because I feel protected by my sisters - although sometimes they can be overprotective and authoritative," she says. "I have not changed a bit. I continue to live a normal life. Sometimes I meet people who identify me and call me Malaika - and it feels sweet for people to appreciate what you do."

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