Director Wanuri Kahiu Challenges Ban on Kenyan Lesbian Romance
The Kenyan film, Rafiki, a romance about two teenage girls falling in love in Nairobi received positive reviews internationally when it was released last year, but was summarily banned at home as the subject of lesbian love was classified as “incendiary.” The head of film classification expanded on the board’s opinion – “The attempt to normalize homosexuality is akin to air-conditioning hell.”
Director Wanuri Kahiu is suing the government for infringement of freedom of expression and is back in court this June. In a recent interview in the Guardian, she talks about her efforts to lift the ban on her film and her passion to continue producing work to create new visions of Africa in cinema, “The only way I can process patriarchy, toxic masculinity, the only way that I can make sense of this film being in court, having people threaten my existence and my work, is by writing and creating. It’s the only way I feel I have control.”
While Kenya doesn’t have a great track record on LGBTQ rights, activists are aiming to curb discrimination through the courts and the High Court is considering striking down the colonial era law criminalizing gay sex at the end of May. The successful take down of Section 377 in India has buoyed activists in Kenya while public opinion on homosexuality still remains largely negative—and conservative American religious groups are working hard on the ground to keep it that way.
After touring the film abroad, Kahiu spoke of the passion she and activists in Kenya share to create change in an interview in Much Ado About Cinema, “We truly love our country. When you push back [against] a system, you can be labelled a dissident or be labelled an agitator, and its almost analogous with being unpatriotic. But I think the most patriotic thing we can do is say that every single Kenyan exists and has the right to be, and every single story has the right to be told and the right to be heard. We love the country and want to represent it to the best of our ability.”