After many months of back and forth between the Kenya Films Classification Board (KFCB) and movie director Wanuri Kahiu about her movie, the High Court on September 2, 2018 lifted the ban on Rafiki for it to be screened in theatres locally for seven days.
On Tuesday evening, I made my way to Goethe Institut to catch the press screening of the movie, that would include some of the cast being in the audience.
We were supposed to start the movie at “6.30 SHARP” our invite read, but then this is Nairobi. It started just after 7pm.
Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) is a girl from a modest background. She is a tomboy, she loves skating, playing soccer, and hanging out with her boys Blacksta (Neville Misati) and Waireri (Charlie Karumi).
She also helps out her dad at his shop when she’s needed to and basically takes care of her mum.
Her dad, John Mwaura (Jimmy Gathu), is running for the MCA seat in their ward – Slopes Ward. He is separated from Kena’s mother Mercy (Nini Wacera), who is a staunch churchgoer and believes prayer remedies everything.
With all that’s going on around her, Kena is actually in a very lonely place. While she’s there for everyone who needs her when they need her, she doesn’t seem to have anyone who would have her back should she chooses to reveal who she really is.
Kena is attracted to women, but everyone in her community is strongly against homosexuality. Her friend Waireri is extremely homophobic and gets very vile whenever the neighbourhood’s known gay man (played by Vitalis Waweru) is around where he is. Kena sees Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) and she feels a very deep attraction to her.
Ziki is the daughter to the current Slopes MCA, Peter Okemi (Dennis Musyoka), and Rose Okemi (Patricia Amira). Her family is well-to-do and she hangs out with her two best friends, who also seem to be from a similar background.
She is a rebellious teenager who wants things done how and when they should be done.
Unlike Kena, she has an eye for fashion and makeup and is not afraid to express herself, damn what everyone else thinks.
With their fathers in a political tug of war, the two girls’ friendship catches the curiosity of the people in the neighbourhood but more so that of neighbourhood gossip, Mama Atim (Muthoni Gathecha).
She and her daughter Nduta (Nice Githinji) are always out looking for the “juice” of things, and this is one of those things they want to be on top of when it goes out.
The friendship between Ziki and Kena finally blossoms into a love affair and they have to navigate the tricky waters of being with each other while not letting anyone suspect that something is going on between them.
How will they keep it under wraps and, if it does come out that they are in love, how will the community and their parents handle it?
Rafiki’s cinematography is one of the many highlights of the movie. You can talk about the vibrancy in the colours, the shots and angles and the steady camera work that doesn’t make your head ache at the end of the day like most local series and movie producers do nowadays.
It just shows the prowess of Kahiu as the director. She was also aided by a team of producers and co-producers led by Steven Markovitz.
The story was played out very well most of the time.
I was especially drawn to the character of Kena. This was Samantha’s first stab at acting and boy did she land it.
Wanuri had seen her while she was drumming at a concert for The Yellow Light Machine and saw her fitting the character perfectly. After having gone through a month of acting boot camp, the vision Wanuri saw is clear to the audience. Her character is a smart, sweet and caring person.
I almost believed the naivety and innocence she portrayed in the movie was truly her real self. I hurt with her character and rejoiced with her too. I felt her conflict when she was at crossroads and heaved sighs of relief with her.
Also, the soundtrack was amazingly put together and set the tone for a lot of the scenes. Mama Atim and Nduta are quite the characters and bring many light moments to this movie with a really heavy subject.
The movie definitely sets the tone for conversation on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community and the level at which they are accepted in our society.
I felt like it was a far-fetched notion to portray the Kenyan society as highly intolerable to these individuals. That there is a resistance to queer persons is not disputed. Kenya, like many societies, and not just African ones, has a hard time reconciling with the thought of it.
However, that whole communities, with not a dissenting voice among them, would go out of their way to make the lives of queer individuals a living hell is just unreal.
Maybe that the story is based on a different perspective, which would explain that.
Undeniably, there have been people who have faced verbal, sexual and violent abuse on the basis of being queer, but I don’t agree that in Kenya there is a general consent to such action.
The fact that many have come out to embrace this movie shows just how accepting or at least tolerating Kenyans are towards that community.
NO GRAPHICAL SEXUAL SCENES
My other fault with the movie is that it was too short; it ran just about an hour. But with all that was going on, I felt that things had to be rushed through.
Ziki and Kena’s connection was faster than instant coffee. There’s a scene where Kena is chasing Ziki and her friends because they were defacing her father’s campaign posters.
When she finally catches up to Ziki, who can’t run as fast as her friends, they just stop and stare at each other longingly. It seemed like a forced love scene to me. I have said it before that I am not one for the love stories, so I may not be the best one to judge this.
That KFCB would say that this was a graphically sexual movie is beyond anyone who’s had the chance to watch it. I was so sure clothes were going to be torn off bodies and I had my pretend hand-to-my-eye-with-the-index-finger-letting-my-left-eye-see-it-all on the ready. But alas, this wasn’t to be.
Only they can explain to us why they really did not want us to watch the movie.
You still have until Sunday to catch it in theatres in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.