In a lovely turn of events, the High Court in Kenya has lifted the ban imposed on Wanuri Kahiu’s lesbian film Rafiki, by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB). Now, the movie will be eligible to be submitted for the 2019 Oscars in the category for Best Foreign Language.
Last week, the Kenyan director sued the KFCB and its boss Ezekiel Mutua and while we kept our fingers crossed, we hoped the outcome will be positive. However, the lifting of the ban will only last for seven days, according to Justice Wilfrida Okwany, which is just enough time for the movie to be screened to willing adults. As you know, Rafiki was banned in Kenya for “promoting lesbianism” and, in the making of the ruling, Justice Okwany cited Kenyan artists who have had to flee the country and seek asylum because their creations went against the grain of societal expectations.
Rafiki is a love story of two teenage girls who develop a romantic relationship, which is opposed by their families and community. The film was adapted from the short story Jambula Tree by Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, which was awarded the prestigious Caine Prize for Adrian Writing in 2007. “That’s not who we are and homosexuality is not our way of life,” Mutua tweeted after the ruling, further saying it will be a tragedy and shame to have homosexual films define Kenyan culture.
Kenyan Twitter has been reacting to the temporary lifting of the ban, and I saw a tweet that went “it goes against African culture and our Christian norms.” The real tragedy here is ‘African culture’ and ‘Christian norms’ in the same sentence, given that they operate on different sets of beliefs. Wanuri Kahiu’s movie can now run for the Oscars, and that’s all that matters.