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Sibi-Okumu hounoured at inaugural Kenya Theatre Awards

Legendary actor John Sibi Okumu [Courtesy]

Veteran thespian John Sibi-Okumu was one of those honoured at the Kenya Theatre Awards held at the Kenya National Theatre on Thursday evening.

The venue was a hive of activities as thespians showed up to support their own.

The awards recognised outstanding productions, artistes and the legacy of practitioners who have become icons.

Other winners on the night included Vivian Nyawira, who won in the Best Breakthrough Female Performer category, Gilbert Lukalia (Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role -Musical) and Sarakasi - African Contemporary (Best Original Choreography in a Musical/Play award.)

Mike Ndeda, Nick Ndeda, Xavier Nato and Nice Githinji were among the big winners of the night.

For the special category, John Sibi Okumu received the World Impact Awards while Alacoque Ntome received the Jury’s Special Award.

Despite the challenges of 2021, there still were notable theatrical performances, a testament to the industry’s resilience. 

“We want to establish the awards as an annual tradition that will always come on the second Thursday of February. This is just the first edition of a tradition that we hope will grow into an event that can become Kenya’s own version of something like the American Academy Awards or the Tony’s,” said Benson Ngobia, Kenya Theatre Awards jury chair.

“There has been no theatre awards that track and watch all performance staged in Kenya at a given year. The theatre industry in Kenya also lacks proper data on the number of theatre venues, number of performances staged in a given year, number of people who attend theatre performances as well as an average figure of revenue generated through theatrical activities.

“That is why we thought of coming up with Kenya Theatre Awards to change the dynamics of the industry. Despite Covid and bearing in mind that theatre is a more of a physical art, we were hardest hit but the industry is slowly coming to life as evidenced today,” said Ngobia.

Thursday's event had 95 nominations in 28 categories. A jury of five people representing academia, practitioners, theatre associations and media was tasked with watching all performances staged between January and December of 2021. 

They thereafter held a jury’s conference to evaluate and announce nominees of the awards.

“Given the resilience and growth of Kenyan productions in the recent past, it’s only too deserved to recognize and celebrate them,” says Margaretta wa Gacheru, KTA jury member.

The art disciplines considered included drama (including productions of set works for schools), solo shows, musical theatre and spoken word.