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Kenya's Samantha Mugatsia Snags 'Best Actress' Award for Her Lead Role in 'RAFIKI' at FESPACO 2019

The continent's most prestigious pan-African film festival acknowledges a queer character despite 'RAFIKI's' home country maintaining its ban on the film.

FESPACO, Africa's oldest and largest pan-African film and TV festival returned to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in its 50th year—making a statement during it's highly anticipated prize ceremony that closes out the festivities.

The festival presented Kenya's own Samantha Mugatsia the award for 'Best Actress' for her queer character Kena in Wanuri Kahiu's Cannes-favorite RAFIKI, BBC reports.


All eyes were on the film last year, as Kahiu fought tooth and nail for her film to be screened in Kenya, especially for the opportunity to make the film eligible for an Oscar nomination. The Kenya Film Classification Board briefly permitted the film to be screened for a week in September 2018, but has since maintained its ban, claiming the film "seeks to legitimize lesbian romance."

'Rafiki' - Official Trailer (Exclusive) youtu.be

For FESPACO to acknowledge this film and give it its due praise despite its controversy surrounding archaic laws and schools of thought around the need to support queer Africans, is simply huge.

"It's quite overwhelming, but I feel like this such a pivotal time in Kenya and in Africa to create discourse about societal issues," Mugatsia says on Newsday on winning the award. "I'm proud that RAFIKI and the cast and everyone that has been part of this or has been supporting us is able to create...a safe space."

She continues:

"It's a very pivotal time, especially for the Kenyan law system in the sense that the constitution was promulgated in 2010 and we emphasized a lot on the bill of rights and people being able to express themselves. Besides RAFIKI being a queer film, the first fight begins with artists being able to write stories that they can and make films that they want to."

For Kahiu, this award is also a moment to acknowledge the need for freedom of expression on the continent.

"We have the right to tell our stories, because they are precisely that—ours," she says on Twitter. "We have the right to have all voices heard because they are ours. We have the right to create, because that's how we share our humanity with the rest of the world."

RAFIKI is inspired by the 2007 Caine Prize Winning short story "Jambula Tree" by Ugandan writer Monica Arac Nyeko, where it asks whether it's safer being invisible or if it's better to defy conservative rules, while discovering one's identity and destiny through love. In the film we meet Mugatsia's character along with her co-star Sheila Munyiva, who plays Ziki. The two young women fall in love despite the odds stacked against them.

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Photo by Robert Szaniszlo/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Kenyan Athlete Eliud Kipchoge Nominated for Sportsman of the Year Award

The record-breaking marathon runner has been nominated for the top prize in the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards alongside Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton and Rafael Nadal.

Sport24 reports that Kenyan athlete and marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge has been nominated for Sportsman of the Year in the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards.

He's made the prestigious nominations list alongside Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton and Rafael Nadal.

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Photo courtesy of Film Movement.

'Rafiki,' Trevor Noah's 'The Daily Show,' & More, Earn 2020 GLAAD Award Nominations

The GLAAD awards recognize "fair, accurate and inclusive representations" of the LGBTQ community in media.

The nominations for the annual GLAAD Media Awards, which "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives," have just been announced, and several of our favorite shows this year have earned nominations.

Wanuri Kahiu's groundbreaking film Rafiki earned a nomination in the "Outstanding Film Limited Release" category. The acclaimed lesbian love story was the first Kenyan film to screen at Cannes. We caught up with the director to discuss the film back in May of last year.

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Watch the Hazy Music Video for Burna Boy's 'Secret' Featuring Jeremih and Serani

Burna Boy drops a new music video for a fan favorite from his Grammy-nominated album 'African Giant.'

Grammy-nominated Burna Boy shares the music for the latest single "Secret," a fan favorite from his seminal album African Giant.

The track, which features American singer Jeremih and Jamaican dancehall artist Serani, is arguably one of the album's most fun and memorable tracks. The song gets a hazy music video starring the three artists in various dimly-lit, monochromatic settings. The video was directed by David Camarena.

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Listen to J Hus' New Album 'Big Conspiracy'

The artist's highly-anticipated sophomore album features Burna Boy, Koffee and more.

J Hus is back. The heavyweight British-Gambian artist returns with his highly-anticipated sophomore album Big Conspiracy.

The 13-track album features the likes of Burna Boy, who joins the artist on the upbeat track "Play Play," as well as buzzing Jamaican artist Koffee who appears on the track "Repeat," one of the album's clear standouts.

It also features a new artist by the name of iceè tgm on three tracks. Some fans have speculated that the mysterious artist is J Hus' sister. The album includes the previously released single 'Must Be,' which he dropped in November of last year.

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