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Steven Kanumba’s death; Tanzania faces an MJ moment of national grief

Kanumba, a young man of 28, died in controversial circumstances in his house in Sinza, Dar es Salaam. As Researcher and
Social Scientist Aidan Eyakuze opined in a question he posted on social network twitter, “is the passing of Steven Kanumba Tanzania’s Lady Diana and or Michael Jackson moment of cathartic grief?”

The comparison here being that the death of the much loved Princes Diana and King of Pop Michael Jackson saw the world swell in a flood of grief in a much comparable way, which has similarly gripped Tanzania over Steven Kanumba’s demise. Kanumba rose from an unknown quantity, in a country whose film industry was non-existent to build a name and a brand that has slowly but certainly become familiar in East and West Africa wherever Swahili is spoken.

He became a brand ambassador, a face of Tanzanian (arguably) East African film and an ambassador of Kiswahili language. His handsome face was familiar on posters as his swag was various TV soaps, advertisements and films he acted in. A rags to riches story complete with swanky cars and a palatial mansion. All this in a period of 10 years. The swelling of grief at his final send-off was stuff of mind-boggling proportions.

It is no wonder that deaths are reported to have occurred at his burial at Kinondoni Cemetery on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam. However, painful his death may be for his fanatical legion of fanatic followers, it has brought to light the debate that has been raging more so on the social networking sites on the existence of a Tanzanian Move industry otherwise known as “Bongo wood” and whither the direction of the industry.

There is no better time to dissect the offering of Tanzanian Television and Film industry as now, the moment when, its High Priest if you like, has passed on at a tender age of only 28, having made a huge impact on the Swahili loving nation that adores its heroes and heroines, particularly the artistic type. For the millions of Kanumba’s followers, there is no debate on Kanumba the Great (as he named himself and his film company) and his films, themes and acting.

This was inherent even when from as far as Kisangani and Bunia in the DRC Congo, representatives flew all the way to attend
his funeral. I bet no other East African actor can muster a following like the one Kanumba had. President Jakaya Kikwete postponed a foreign tour to participate in paying homage to Steven Kanumba.

However, critics will note these areas where the budding film industry so aptly energized by Kanumba drive in Tanzania needs to re-examine itself. Like in real life, the irony of Kanumba’s death is not lost on those who saw it “sort-coming in the lovebrewed scenes fraught with murder between loved ones.

He died in a love related accident, like in the many films and TV soaps he created and acted in, where protagonists kill in the name of jealousy and murderous rage. Opinion is divided on whether Kanumba, in his preferred love is all stories, has been a mirror reflection of a love-sick society. In these stories protagonists use money and wealth, property, position and power and not least, witch doctors to get love.

One has to also understand the role love and weddings play in the Tanzanian society to understand where these lines have been such a darling of the fans. In the coast of East Africa, girls are taught to find love and be good wives and that takes precedence over finding a future of their own efforts through school.

That culture together with yet another of the patriarchal Islamic way of life again which makes the male child a dominant constant and sequesters the girl child to providing male gratification, then you have a vortex of factors that ensure that tears and cheers are very much part of the love society of Tanzania. Is the Tanzanian society so love sick they are willing to do anything for love?

Did Kanumba confirm a society that takes pleasure in voyeurism? The scripts are patently weak, the storylines hardly
develops anyone other than the main actor and the simple love solutions can be pathetic. The quality factors is there although there is the threat of over acting, while the greatest threat is what these love stories are doing to young impressionable minds. The writer, a Media consultant, is Managing Editor of Utafiti News Features. Comments are welcome


YESTERDAY, Wednesday 28th October, 2020; was general ...


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