Wanuri Kahiu (b.1980) is a filmmaker, speaker and science fiction writer. Her short award-winning science fiction film Pumzi (2009) about futuristic Africa premiered at Sundance Film Festival (2010) and received international acclaim including the ‘Citta di Venezia’ award at the Venice Film Festival 2010. Her futuristic views have been the source of articles, African futurist journals, masterclasses and dissertations. Wanuri published her first children’s book The Wooden Camel (Lantana, 2017) and co- wrote Rusties, a short story about African traffic robots with Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld, 2016).
Kahiu’s award-winning film Rafiki, a same-sex love story about two girls was the first Kenyan film to be invited to Cannes Film Festival (2018). The film was banned in Kenya, after which Kahiu sued the Kenya Film Classification Board for the infringement of her constitutional rights to Freedom of Expression. The constitutional case is ongoing.
Kahiu speaks globally about Freedom of Expression and Afrobubblegum – the advocacy for images of fun, fierce and frivolous African images and was named TIME’s 100 Next in 2019.
What kind of world would we inhabit if we had to buy the air we breathe? Writer-filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has revealed that this question spurred the making of her dystopian short film Pumzi (2009) which means “breath” in Swahili. Kahiu’s sci-fi short imagines a disconsolate future 35 years after the Third World War, or “Water Wars”. The film is set in the Maitu community of East Africa, where survivors are locked away and kept under strict surveillance.
Pumzi is the first sci-fi film ever made in Kenya. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 as part of its New African Cinema programme. Kahiu both wrote and directed the film.
Photos: Wanuri Kahiu