The hottest new film in Kenya is the critically-acclaimed Nairobi Half Life. The plot follows an ambitious young man who moves to Nairobi to pursue his dream of becoming an actor ... but eventually becomes a criminal.
The film premiered two weeks ago in Nairobi and viewers were surprised by a kissing scene between two male characters. The Daily Nation—the country's largest newspaper which boasts a gay-friendly editorial policy—has described the scene as "ground breaking." Director/producer David "Tosh" Gitonga told the newspaper the scene was meant to be provocative. "It’s about time people addressed the issue of gays in our society," said Gitonga. "We did it, but not in the negative angle for once."
The same-sex scene in Nairobi Half Life is just the latest in a promising trend. Kenyan television and books are featuring more gay and lesbian characters, reports Denis Nzioka at Identity Kenya.
Shuga II, a show on HIV, love and youth, included a gay character – Rayban – in the show’s second season who was openly gay in the series. Though contentious, the actor who played Rayban, Edward Nyanaro said he was nervous when he took on the gay role, but it was a challenge and a responsibility he was willing to embrace.
Last month, Kenyan producer and film maker, Wanuri Kahuri was reported to be planning to produce a film, Jambula Tree, based on the acclaimed novel by Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko's short story by the same name that won her the Caine Prize in the edition of the competition.Jambula Tree is a coming of age story about two Kenyan girls, Anyango and Sanyu, who fall in love and whose desire for each other flies in the face of African conventions.
Kenyan lesbian author, Kerry Belchambers’s book, Cresswell Falls, featured the story of two women from different backgrounds who fall in love with one another after sharing their experiences. The book made it to the final list of the 2012 Golden Crown Literary Society Awards. It has been receiving positive reviews.
Watch the trailer of Nairobi Half Life AFTER THE JUMP ...
Kenya's government is considered progressive on gay rights. Same-sex relations are illegal—penalties are between five and 14 years’ imprisonment—but arrests and prosecutions are rare. Kenya was the first African nation to include men who have sex with men in their national HIV strategy.
Two pro-LGBT justices were confirmed to the Supreme Court in June 2011. The recently-appointed Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga has said that "gay rights are human rights" and expressed a desire to overturn anti-gay legislation. As a result, Kenya has rapidly become a refuge for many LGBTs who have been persecuted in East African nations.
Read our recent analysis for EBONY: "Can Kenya Lead Africa on Gay Rights?"
Some Background ...
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Can Kenya Lead Africa on Gay Rights? [EBONY]
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AIDS 2010: Joel Nana on African Gay/Bi Men, HIV
WATCH: CNN Surveys Gay Rights in SA, Kenya, Cuba
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Kenya: "Things are Changing in Favor of Gays"