Five influential East African women in film & TV that you should know about

influential East African women

There has never been a better time for gender equality to take center stage than right now. When it comes to the creative film and television industry, academies such as the MultiChoice Talent Factory in East Africa have deliberately made strides to achieve gender equity in their student selections. In time, these skilled young creatives will thrive due to the legacy that the following successful industry forerunners have built.

Hermon Hailay, Ethiopia

Hailay is a prolific film director and writer who has made significant headway without having had any formal training in the industry. She is most notable for her hard-hitting and endearing 2015 film Price of Love, which details an Ethiopian taxi driver whose life becomes entangled in a difficult love affair. Price of Love was an official selection at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and garnered 11 international film awards. Hailay deliberately makes films that highlight Ethiopian stories, which is why her other films Baleguru (2012) and Yaltasbrew (2013) carry the same poignancy and ingenuity that speaks to everyday life. 

Seko Shamte, Tanzania

Seko Shamte is a filmmaker extraordinaire that is slowly changing Tanzania’s film industry. As a producer, writer and director, Shamte made a name for herself in the industry by venturing into television first, and is the name behind top Tanzanian shows such as Ze Comedy and directed the web series The A-Team Tanzania. Her first feature-length 2011 documentary Mkwawa: Shujaa wa Mashujaa reintroduced her to the industry as not only a skillful storyteller but also an archivist of Tanzanian history. Her passion for telling Tanzanian stories continues in her acclaimed debut film Homecoming. With over 15 years in the Tanzanian film and television industry, Shamte is just getting started.

Njoki Muhoho, Kenya

Njoki Muhoho is one of Kenya’s leading filmmakers, management consultant and all-round creative. With over 15 years the television and film industry, Muhoho has been behind some of Kenya’s top television shows. This includes the award-winning Swahili drama Mama Duka in 2013. She was also the executive producer of 2009 drama series Changes, which was one of the first major shows of its kind in East Africa. Muhoho is currently the East Africa Academy Director of the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy. 

Florence Kasumba, Uganda

From Marvel’s Wonder Woman to Black Panther, it’s surprising that German-Ugandan actress Florence Kasumba is not a household name yet. Born in Kampala in 1976, Kasumba then moved to Germany and the Netherlands. She subsequently began her performance career in numerous theatre musicals, including Chicago, Cats and West Side Story. She then leaped into the silver screen and acted in numerous successful German and Dutch films and television shows. Kasumba has since featured in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s worldwide smash hit film Black Panther, where she played the fierce Ayo. She’s currently working on the 2019 remake of The Lion King, where she plays the voice of Shenzi the hyena.

Lupita Nyong’o, Kenya

Actress Lupita Nyong’o is undoubtedly Kenya’s film darling and one of the most promising actresses over the next few years. From featuring in Kenyan hit TV series Shuga, to taking on award-winning roles such as Patsey in the 2013 film 12 Years A Slave, Nyong’o has a versatility that earned her a place in history when she became the first Kenyan to win an Academy Award for her embodiment of Patsey. Her other breakout films include Queen of Katwe and more recently Black Panther. Nyong’o talents also extend to a theatre, to which she has also gained critical acclaim.

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