Celebrating Black Women in Film and Television and Kenya

It is the golden age of black film and television content and creators, a historic second Kenyan female director joins the Academy and a glimpse at Rafiki (Kenya’s 1st at Cannes), Yellow Fever( Ng’endo Mukii tackles colorism), Lupita Nyong’o directs a Roadside drama and Kenya’s iconic Lamu through Philippa Ndisi-Hermann’s New Moon

This past week has been a beacon moment in film and television. Netflix, which is one of the biggest content providers across the world recreated an iconic moment in Hollywood, which re-centers the talented and black feature film and television series stars. It features, among others Ava DuVernay, who is one of the leading black female directors today, who did not pick up a filmcamera until she was 32 at the start of her blockbuster career.

Secondly, a first happened for Kenya, one more amazing film maker was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, better known as the Oscars. Wanuri Kahiu is an Afrofuturist, and film director of Pumzi, From A Whisper and the Wangari Maathai-focused From Our Land. Most recently lauded at the Cannes Film Festival for Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to be screened at the festival – and banned in Kenya, she was this week the second female Kenyan director to be inducted. The first was the versatile Judy Kibinge. Check out more of her work

The recreation of A Great Day in Hollywood recalls A Great Day In Harlem, which was a photograph captured in 1958 of the most iconic jazz musicians in what was the Golden Age of Jazz. For those who have always had photographs at home, you have to imagine a time when this was a rare privilege to be memorialized on film, let alone to get so many incredible artists to be available at the same time in history together. And this is incredibly what this moment of film greats together calls to mind. In every part of the world, new content in the Netflix bouquet localises the experiences of the viewers, and there is a sense in the content that one should now be able to see oneself. This is the triumph of the moment, that being black and on film is never again going to be a limited engagement. That this is indeed the golden age of black television and film.

Nowhere more personal for me, is it to see Kenyan female film makers being screened, and being elevated in the world. Often when I was growing up in Kenya of the 1980s and 1990s, we watched one television station until 1990, which was the national broadcaster and had two channels until the mid-late 1990s when more stations went on the air. Until then, we watched cultural staples like Star Wars, the Karate Kid, and beloved animated cartoons on videotapes played on high-maintenance VHS Players. Head Cleaner and careful handling of equipment mandatory. And this is not forgetting that there were only a few video libraries where one could borrow the videotapes. I was very fortunate that my Dad took up this film selection seriously. A few of my cousins and I used to put on our own skits which made the films and cartoons come to life for our parents. I am more than sure that the filmmakers who are creating now went a step further to start writing scripts and putting together storyboards.

Moreover, we knew women read the news, or presented the weather, but we did not have an express understanding of women in the media being the decision makers, even though they invariably were pioneers in the newsroom. On the stage, if one was fortunate, we watched women acting in stage plays at the Phoenix Players theatre in Nairobi. I wished more women directed the plays, and I am sure some did. However, the vast majority of those who appeared in the playbills with the director credit were men. This may seem very outdated thinking, and it was very last century. Now, interviews with Kenyan women in film reveal that there were so many women waiting, building skills, building portfolios and this is their time to shine. Well in Wanuri, and Judy. You have done us proud.

If you have not yet had a chance to see Wanuri’s film Rafiki, watch the official trailer below

If reading this has made you want to discover more work by black film makers from Kenya, check out the work of the following Kenyan female film directors

1- Ng’endo Mukii, Yellow Fever an incredible short about the politics of black skin

2- Lupita Nyong’oIn My Genes and The Roadside – if you have seen her other films, you will enjoy this offbeat short film about the roadside experience in Kenya

3- Philippa Ndisi-Hermann‘s New Moon – a film about one woman’s spiritual awakening in the middle of her storytelling journey through one of Kenya’s most beautiful and historic coastal areas, Lamu

You can follow me on Twitter – @SunnyKay

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Dinner Nairobi, Breakfast NYC

Kenya Airways is from this October going to be flying between two of my favorite cities, New York City and Nairobi. I have every bit of excitement knowing that what would take at least 12 hours of flight time via Europe or the Middle East, is now one flight direct. Last night, to much fanfare, Kenya Airways launched this flight in Nairobi.

How big a deal is this move? New York City and its region handled 130.5 million passengers in 2016 alone, and Nairobi joins 1400+ other cities with enjoying a direct flight. (Source: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

New York City is about to enter its 5th Century of existence. Nairobi has just passed its 1st century. Kenya is one of the top exporters of flowers, and now New York City may not have to look to Amsterdam focused wholesalers for daily fresh bouquets. Not only do we have a case for getting more business leaders to our side of the world faster, we have a chance to have folks who have never been to Africa come live from New York City. Initiatives like Be Girl World, a Philly organization which was started by Deesha Dyer (Elle just did a feature on her incredible journey), which empower teen girls through global education and travel can make it over to Kenya faster – allowing their students to visit the cradle of mankind and bring their history to life.

Lupita Nyong’o, first Kenyan of Oscar Winner and of her name, can today personally attend the premiere of Black Panther in Kisumu, a great Kenyan city where Kenya Airways connects to from Nairobi  if she so wishes and tomorrow get back to the East Coast to continue preparing for Star Wars: Episode IX without missing a take. Speaking of movies: You can watch The Godfather, Coming to America and King Kong today in Nairobi and tomorrow visit Harlem, Dumbo and the Empire State Building where all three were shot.

Coming To Nairobi: New Yorkers can leave the City today and enjoy a stunning evening gamedrive in the Nairobi National Park tomorrow afternoon, and sleep in a room where giraffes say good morning that same night. The timing of the flight means visitors to Nairobi can do all these things in 36 Hours (Source: NYTimes)

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004755946

What do you need to know to get on the flight? The BBC says:

  • Tickets are going for KES 89,000 (US$ 890)
  • It will be a 14 hour flight from NBO -NYC leaving at 23.25 and arriving at 06.25
  • Kenya welcomes over 100,000 tourists from the United States of America annually.

On the preparation side, Kenya will need to continue energizing the Magical Kenya tourism effort, and put every effort into welcoming and hospitable for all visitors, and locals of course. Articles like this one: TripAdvisor Top Destinations on the Rise No. 3: Nairobi, Kenya will not hurt either.

If I have my way, I will be making my way from Nairobi to New York on 28.10.2018 with the inaugural flight. The year is young still and this may just come to pass.

Are you on Pinterest? Pin this post and keep sharing it.

NAINYCDirectFlight

International Scholarships for Kenyans

Here is a 2017 list of opportunities that got me sharing and retweeting. Just for you, I read through them, so you do not have to – and tailored them for Kenyans. All the best!

  1. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya – The Government of Kenya regularly updates this list of scholarships directed from various countries for Kenyan citizens. This list is deep, so, definitely worth a try.
  2. Fulbright for Foreign Students (non-US citizens) : These are administered through the country Fulbright Commissions or U.S. Embassies (portal link) For example, if you are from Kenya, you are redirected to the Kenya site, with more information, and an actual email address to a real person. In this case, the Musician and Orchestra Conductor, Mr Ken Wakia, a past Fulbright recipient is the Chairman of the Kenya Fulbright Scholars Association, and is the main contact (email him)
  3. If you are interested in studying in the USA, go to:
    1. EducationUSA : This site offers a wealth of information about scholarships, English language learning, cultural exchanges, and other options available from the US.
    2. EducationUSA Kenya Advisory Services: They offer advice through general sessions held regularly in Nairobi. I attended the general session when I was applying, and later sought further advice through tailored paid sessions back in 2004/5. Now, students have many more options, including #3 below.
    3. For high achieving students (B+ and above in the KCSE) with a desire to study in the USA, they do offer a number of limited slots to assist students with the cost and process of application to the US  through the EducationUSA Scholars program. know at least one young woman who contacted them through the EducationUSA Kenya FB Page, and won one of these spots, and is now studying in the USA.
  4. Austria: Undergraduates, Graduates, Postgraduates and PhD students who are citizens of any country apart from Austria can apply for the Scholarship of the Scholarship Foundation of the Republic of Austria for Undergraduates, Graduates and Postgraduates which is a grant for research promotion, or search the Austrian scholarships database for specific courses of study at Scholarships.at. You can click through and find more information in English too.
  5. Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship: Nationals of  Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique are eligible to apply (and a few others if you are currently resident in France, Portugal, Canada, USA and UK) for postgraduate studies. You must also be interested in development-related studies and have no other means of financing your education.  In case you do not get this one, the AKF shares a longer list of other sources of scholarships to which you can apply too.
  6. Chevening Scholarship for the UK: Chevening is the UK Government’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders. Funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations, Chevening offers two types of award – Chevening Scholarships and Chevening Fellowships – the recipients of which are personally selected by British embassies and high commissions throughout the world. Applications for Chevening Scholarships and some Chevening Fellowships open between 7 August and 7 November 2017. Kenya applicants check this page
  7. Endeavour Scholarship Awards in Australia: The Australia Awards–Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships are the Australian Government’s competitive, merit-based scholarships and fellowships providing opportunities for Australians to undertake study, research or professional development overseas and for overseas citizens to do the same in Australia. But before you apply, check out what other international students have to say about their experiences
  8. Swedish Institute Scholarship Study Scholarships: Scholarships cover both living costs and tuition fees. An estimated 335 scholarships will be available for master’s level studies in Sweden starting in the autumn semester 2017. Kenya is eligible, among other countries. Of importance, is that you need to check their criteria, plus demonstrate you are SI scholarship ready, including 3,000 hours of relevant work, internship or other trustworthy responsibility.
  9. Scholarships to study in Flanders, Belgium are open to African, Asian and Latin American applicants from 31 countries 
  10. NZAID Scholarships in New Zealand: The NZ Government funds several key scholarships for students in the Pacific. However, for Kenyan applicants, the New Zealand Development Scholarship is likely to be your targeted application if you are looking to do a Postgraduate Certificate (6 months), Postgraduate Diploma (1 year), Master’s Degree (1 – 2 years) or your PhD (3 – 4 years) and the New Zealand Commonwealth Scholarship for Master’s Degree (1 – 2 years) + PhD (up to 3.5 years)
  11. Germany DAAD – Graduates with 2 years of work experience can apply for the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst / German Academic Exchange Service scholarships. Read more about them 

 

Showing Up: Jack Ma, Televised Debates and IAAFUnder18

Most of the job is showing up. And most of the time, Kenyans do a great job of presence and participation. Last week, Kenya’s own Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi brought one of his organization, UNCTAD’s ambassadors Jack Ma to the University of Nairobi. Livecast around the world, this was just after Kenya hosted the biggest youth athletics meet of the season,  IAAF Under 18 Championships, at the Kasarani Stadium – the same venue that hosted President Barack Obama’s public visit only two years ago. Not only that, but both events enter Kenya’s hot election contest, which comes every 5 years or so. The televised candidate debates for deputy presidential and presidential posts revealed that Kenya does expect its own to show up, and be seen, even if the verdict is not yet in on debates deciding elections.

It is not enough to be a passport carrying Kenyan, you have to earn popular approval, as well as all the podium places. Your very presence has to be marked, and your work autographed with…for lack of a better word, Kenyanness (check dictionary for Kenyan beside the word lead also excellence) As a Kenyan, I am extremely proud when we wear our best clothes, and take on the world. No marathon in any city while living in Europe is complete without a 1-2-3 finish by Kenyan men and women. Citizens of Kenya, and I suspect many other countries expect their own to bring the goodies home, expect their politicians to be in the streets and in the tweets, and their athletes to shine in every race.

It is even better now that we have evidence of the democratic process of election campaigning, and I can share with friends and colleagues that Kenya is indeed doing the things it should to stake its own claim as a modern participant in political processes. But, also how could most of the Deputy President aspirants, except Muthiora Kariara fail to show up. He walked away with a huge leap away from being unknown, to breaking through the two-horse race wall-to-wall media blockade and increase the spotlight on his independent deputy presidential candidacy and platform. Also, just yesterday, how could our poised President Kenyatta miss the Presidential Debate?  (Of course, just 2 days ago, he did hold a much subscribed FBLive event) and leave the floor so open for the charismatic candidate former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to literally take the debate away?

So, race tracks, electioneering politicos and billionaires aside – in short. JUST SHOW UP.

How?

  1. Use this checklist (Read about the process of showing up from author Christina Rosalie)manifesto for showing up

 

3. Bring your friends along – and make sure you create a space for students to learn from you.

Naturally, I was happiest to see that one of the biggest purseholders, the Jack Ma, chose the season of the wildebeest migration to bring a heavy delegation( i.e Jack Ma + 38 Billionaires)  to Kenya and speak at the University that has curated some of the best minds in my family and our country, the University of Nairobi.

2017-07-25 09.31.05

Also, take a few minutes to catch the talk by Jack Ma at the University of Nairobi

Are you convinced yet, are you ready to get started on showing up? Ask me more about how you and your favourite people can get together, and start making better connections to your work, and others in your space via the contact form below.

 

I am Josephine Karianjahi, learn more about me and connect with me on Twitter