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Kenyan actress in banned lesbian film ‘Rafiki’ wins award

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.


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.

Kenyan actress Samantha Mugatsia (left) with Sheila Munyiva in the movie. PHOTO | COURTESY

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.