Ekwa Msangi is no stranger to film and television. The Tanzanian-American grew up
in Kenya but she’s currently based in New York. Her initial career started in
producing documentaries for clients and then she started doing short films in
Nairobi with local national television stations. As of now she is channelling her
creative ambitions on writing and directing.
Her works include Taharuki (“Suspense’ in Swahili), a 12-minute short set against
the backdrop of the start of Kenya’s post-election violence. It’s about a man and
woman from opposing tribes who work for an underground resistance movement to
expose a child-trafficking cartel. Something goes wrong, and they’re forced to make
tough choices in order to stay alive and complete their mission.
“I have been in touch with the basic lives of people in Kenya and this short film was
a prequel to a future development project that I am working on called Eastlands,
which resonates with what happened in the lives of people in Kenya during that
The film was picked up for distribution by Shorts International, Inc. and is currently
in circulation in both North America and Europe.
“I have been blessed to do some of the things that young African filmmakers dream
and wish about and I am truly humbled,’ she says. “Africa is one of the most
culturally and artistically enriched reservoirs, There’s so much to be told that we
won’t be able to tell all for ages to come.’
She recently directed a short comedy entitled Soko Sonko (The Market King) which
was commissioned by Focus Features’ Africa First Program.
“I have always been drawn to the very basic notion of human existence, the
tapestry of its way of life. I have been deeply rooted in the way humanity leads
their lives in contrast to their everyday challenges, pain, work, joy and all the
inclusivity of man’s quest to live life, that’s what I tap into as a filmmaker.’
She has been nominated for Kenya’s Kalasha Awards and Africa Movie Academy
Awards. As a female filmmaker she has had her films shown in several world
festivals including New York African, Durban International and Pan African Film
One of Kenya’s television series pioneers, she was involved in the country’s first
ever hour-long M-Net series, The Agency, an original drama that she co-wrote,
produced and directed.
“My years in this field have enabled me to become who I am now and find my own
voice,’ she says. “In Kenya the time I spent doing television and film was
overwhelmingly exciting and the talent that is out there is absolutely
Ekwa was born in Tanzania but lived in Kenya as a student before heading for the
United States, where she received her BFA in Film/TV from Tisch School of the Arts
and an MA in African Cinema from Gallatin School of Individualized Study, both at
New York University. She now teaches production and cultural studies at the Adjunct
Faculty at Tisch School of the Arts. She is also a resident instructor with the African
Film Festival where she has completed numerous after-school youth video-making
classes as part of a collaboration with the New York Department of Education.
Ekwa is currently doing a web series entitled All My Friends Are Married, a quirky
Christian comedy with a blend of dry and physical humour. It highlights the joys,
mistakes, hopes and pitfalls of being single and living in New York City.
“With tenderness and irony we want to realistically present the story of a woman
struggling to survive adulthood from her very imaginative point of view.’ She says:
“This series captures the intersection where heaven meets earth; where adulthood
and dreams force reality. It is here that faith, hope and love collide with bills,
delayed promises and fears.’
Funding for the project was taken from her savings, with help from friends and
“I am so excited to have this already running, this year it all starts with a bang,
because we will be getting the web series up and running,’ Ekwa animatedly states.
“If all goes well then we are hoping to have fun and create a following on the
The show was shot on an Epic M Red Dragon with a Canon AL Lens Mount.
One of Ekwa’s key goals as an artist is to transform the society’s images and
relationships with African cultures, and to empower African filmmakers in telling
– Sam Charo