Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu keeps fighting for lesbian film release in Kenya

Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu has vowed to continue the fight for her film to be released in Kenya, after it was banned for promoting “gayism.”

The Kenyan film, a love story about the daughters of two politicians, has earned acclaim at festivals across the world but remains banned in its home country after state media censors took exception to its LGBT+ content.

Rafiki was granted a temporary seven-day release in the country last month to allow it to meet Oscars qualification rules, but Kahiu has said she will fight on to get the ban lifted permanently.

Speaking at a screening in London on Saturday, the director explained: “We went to court to say, can you please let it run for seven days so it can qualify to be an Oscars submission? That’s how we go the ban lifted [temporarily], which was great.

“The judge made it super clear, she said, ‘I don’t think Kenyans will have an issue with this film.’

“There’s this new East African word called ‘gayism,’ and the conversation was about that, how this film is promoting and spreading ‘gayism.’ The judge said, ‘No, you don’t catch it,’ and lifted the ban.”

Wanuri Kahiu attends the UK Premiere of Rafiki (Jeff Spicer/Getty)

She added: “We’re going back into court to continue to fight for the larger freedom of expression case [to secure a permanent release].

“We have a really young constitution but our constitution hasn’t been tested yet. Freedom [of] expression is one bit.

“The laws that ban the film are colonial laws, and we are asking for the laws to be updated so that they reflect the constitution that we have. There’s nothing in the constitution that says we can’t make films like this.

“I never considered myself an activist… but my work became work that you needed to advocate for. I was pushed into a space where I had to advocate for the work I was creating.”

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