Kenyan Actress in Banned Lesbian Film 'Rafiki' Wins Award

Photo: Supplied
Promotional image from Rafiki.

Kenyan actress Samantha Mugatsia who acted as Kena in the banned Rafiki film has won the Best Actress award at the Burkina Faso's Fespaco Film Festival.

The movie about a love story between two women was banned in Kenya because of its content where Mugatsia plays one half of a couple in love despite the homophobia present in their community.

The film also stars Sheila Munyiva as Ziki, Kena's girlfriend.

After the win last Saturday, the film's director Wanuri Kahiu took to Twitter to congratulate her saying that the win was monumental.

"Winning Best Actress for RAFIKI at FESPACO is monumental. It is not only a recognition of Kenya's artistry and adds Kenya to the history of African cinema, but a huge recognition of Freedom of Expression within Africa."

-- Wanuri (@wanuri) March 4, 2019


Rafiki which means "friend" in Swahili was banned last year by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) for "promoting lesbianism."

The ban was temporarily lifted by a Kenyan court after Kahiu filed a lawsuit challenging the initial ruling.

Kahiu's lawyers argued that banning the film violated her constitutional right to free speech and free expression as an artist.

The court order allowed Kenyans to watch the film for a week and made it eligible to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language film at this year's Academy Awards.

In just seven days, during limited screening run, the film hit top of the Kenya's box office, raking in millions of shillings from local cinemas.

The film grossed about Sh3.3 million during the short period of its screening after it was screened to over 6,500 people in major film theaters in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

Rafiki would later miss out on nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

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