Women making big moves in the film industry (Photo: Courtesy Of Each)

Last week, theatre expert Nyokabi Macharia and renowned actress Nice Githinji featured on a special international episode of the American animated sitcom Big Mouth. The celebrated actress Lupita Nyongó also featured in the episode.

A local news site reports: “The latest season takes a bold leap onto the global stage, featuring (the Kenyan actresses), exploring how puberty unfolds for kids around the world, with a particular focus on Kenya. Animated renditions of familiar Nairobi neighbourhoods, vibrant matatu graffiti, and other cultural icons add a unique touch.”

 Nyokabi Macharia (Photo: N. Macharia)

NYOKABI MACHARIA

The actress grew up in Nakuru and knew from a young age she had artistic capability and talent. She told The Standard in an exclusive interview last year that she began taking a chance at film and acting in primary school, noting that her interest in the craft peaked in secondary school.

After school, she dived into theatre, she was a part of a production called Jesus Christ Superstar, produced by the Nairobi Performing Arts Studio in 2017.

In 2018, Nyokabi was cast as Giraffe on the children’s show Tinga Tinga The Musical. The show had a run at the New Victory Theatre in New York City, the only full-time Broadway theatre for children and families, as reported by The Theatre Times.

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The actress won the coveted Best Lead Actress in a Film award at the Kalasha Film and TV Awards last year and has gained a reputation for being a part of multiple successful local projects, from Netflix’s Country Queen to Showmax’s County 49 and Crime and Justice.

 Sarah Hassan and Brenda Wairimu (Photo: Courtesy Of Each)

SARAH HASSAN

The renowned actress needs no introduction. She is a household name dating back to her days on TV high school drama, Tahidi High. The multi-award-winning actress, producer and TV host rose to fame when she played popular girl Tanya on the series. A bio of her on the film website IMDB notes that the debut role earned her an award for Best Actress at the CHAT Awards twice in 2010 and 2011.

Since, she has starred in numerous Series and films as well as hosted various TV shows that earned her multiple awards including Best Actress 2014( Now That You’re Here), Best TV Host at the Kalasha Awards 2014(Discovery+ 254), Best Actress at Kalasha Awards 2019(Plan B), Best Film at the AMVCA Awards in Nigeria 2019(Plan B), Best Film at the Kalasha Awards 2020(40 Sticks), Best Actress in a Film Kalasha 2021(Just In Time), Best Actress in a Series Kalasha 2021(Crime And Justice) and Best Film at Kalasha Awards 2021(Just In Time).

The actress owns a production company, Alfajiri Productions, a move that sees her step actively behind the camera.

BRENDA WAIRIMU

The Kalasha Awards winner has been one of the most consistent Kenyan thespians. Brenda is best known for her roles in TV series among them Mali, Kona, Shuga and Changing Times. She played major roles in the films Disconnect and Subira back in 2018.

A month ago, she was unveiled as part of the lead actors in the new telenovela Zari, which also features Sarah Hassan. The Maisha Magic show is a production by TV couple Lulu and Rashid, through their production company, Jiffy Pictures. Zari explores a world where hate births secrets and secrets weave lies.

 Mumbi Maina (Photo: M. Maina)

MUMBI MAINA

In the telenovela Second Family, Mumbi Maina plays Katherine, the CFO of EAGC (East Africa Granary Company), a lucrative business, which is now on the brink of collapse and financial ruin after the sudden death of its founder Leo (Ian Mbugua).

This is one of her latest roles in a successful film career that has seen her feature in international productions besides winning awards.  

“She is ambitious, smart and driven,” Mumbi says of Katherine.

“She’s also a bit of a wild card in the ongoing succession battles for EAGC between the Gatehi-Lang’at family. While she seems to be helping Leo’s daughter from his second family take control of the company as she makes an enemy out of Leo’s first wife Evangeline (played by Dora Nyaboke), Katherine’s altruistic motives are not to be taken at face value,” Mumbi says.

Mumbi made her debut in film back in 2008 when she starred as Riziki in Unseen, Unsung, Unforgotten. Other projects she has participated in are Shattered, Mali, Jane and Abel, Kati Kati, Salem, Sense8 and The Matrix’ Resurrections, among others.

 Mbeki Mwalimu (Photo: M. Mbeki)

MBEKI MWALIMU

The established actress is well known for her roles on Netflix’s Sincerely, Daisy and Maisha Magic’s Selina, as well as her work in the theatre space with her theatre venture, Back To Basics, a professional performance art theatre.

In an exclusive 2021 interview with The Standard, Mbeki said that her journey into the creative space started when she was in High School, where she actively participated in music and dancing festivals.

She said: “After secondary school though, I realised that what I truly wanted was to perform on stage. Along the way, I fell in love with theatres and being on stage. As my career progressed, I became more aware of how theatre is run and wanted to be part of the progressive change coming into the industry.”

 Catherine Kamau (Photo: C. Kamau)

CATHERINE KAMAU

Fondly known as Kate Actress by her fans, this star is beloved for her diverse TV roles and appearances as a bubbly brand ambassador for major companies. Not only is she recognised for her work, but she has mastered the use of social media to grow her brand, boasting a massive following- 2.3 million on Instagram and over 300,000 on TikTok.

She is known for roles in productions like romantic comedies Disconnect and Plan B, and TV series like Sue na Johnnie. Her role in Plan B earned her the title of Best Supporting Actress in the Film category at the 9th Kenya Film Commission Kalasha Awards. The actress rose to fame in 2006 when she played Celina on a popular local series, Mother-In-Law.

 Dr Anne Mungai (Photo: A. Mungai)

DR ANNE MUNGAI

Dr Anne Mungai is a film director who has been described as one of the most influential filmmakers in the country.

Her directing career spans decades, having begun in 1980 with her first short film entitled Nkomani Clinic. Since then, she has directed many short- and medium-length films, as well as her first feature film Saïkati.

“This film, like many of Mungai’s works, focuses on a female character living in Africa during a time that is split between traditional African cultural practices and those brought over from the Western world during colonization” a report notes.

The director told a local publication in an interview last year: “We need to watch stories that are written from our perspectives, not a Kenyan filmmaker aping a European or Hollywood Stories. We should not wait for international filmmakers to come and tell our own stories.”

 Wanuri Kahiu (Photo: Getty Images)

WANURI KAHIU

More women continue to make major moves in the industry, like film director Wanuri Kahiu, who is known for her films From A Whisper, based on the real events surrounding the 1998 twin bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, TV documentary For Our Land about Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai for MNET among others.

IMDB reports on Wanuri’s success: “In 2010, her short science fiction film Pumzi premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to win best short film at Cannes Independent Film Festival and the silver at Carthage Film Festival (Tunisia). Pumzi also earned Wanuri the ‘Citta di Venezia 2010’ award in Venice, Italy. Her second feature film Rafiki based on the short story “Jambula Tree” premiered at Cannes 2018.”

Prolific actresses like Wakio Mzenge, and Sanaipei Tande are more examples of ladies making waves in Kenya’s film industry.