A few months ago a friend shared the trailer of “Sungura”, a Kenyan short film about a disabled woman trying to find her way in a world that’s designed to exclude her whilst also going through the journey of discovery to figure out her sexuality as a young, vibrant woman. The trailer couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds but I spent the next half hour rewatching it and finding out as much as I could about the film, its writers, actors and anyone who had had a hand in conceptualizing such an amazing idea; a Kenya film about disability and sex! On the big screen!! I was a man excited.
The disability community in the world is one of the biggest minority groups. As a proud member of said group, I thrive in more ways than one, when I feel like I am accurately represented in the media. It is a very validating experience to see someone who “looks” like you and goes through similar motions of life commanding the screen and telling the honest stories of your community. Plus the film was about the most curiosity-evoking topic in our community; “can disabled people have sex?”
About a month ago, I received a message from the film’s director, the amazing Lydia Matata. She was inviting me to Sungura’s screening which was scheduled to happen in Nakuru, my hometown. Of course, I said yes! With pure excitement!
I got to meet Florence Njeri, the actress who plays the role of “Kemunto”, the main character of the film. Though not a wheelchair user like the role she portrays, Florence has a prosthetic leg that helps her get around. I sat by her side as the doors to the theatre were closed, the lights dimmed; it was finally movie time.
As a wheelchair user, I felt seen, included and represented by the film. Specific aspects of the life of a disabled person were explored, these included inaccessibility to physical spaces, social exclusion, ableism, and assumptions of asexuality by virtue of having a disability. The film was centred on the story of a young disabled woman who desires adventure in her sexuality but those around her are consciously or unconsciously interfering with her journey.
I didn’t take my eyes off the screen the entire time the film was showing. If I could, I would have stood up and given a standing ovation when the movie ended. I felt it was that good. I thanked the writer Lydia for being brave enough to create a piece of work that was bound to be met with a lot of criticism from people who might have thought that disability and sex shouldn’t and can’t exist together.
After the screening of the film we had an hour-long question and answer session where we got to give our views about the film while the audience was invited to ask me and my fellow panellists (also members of the disability community) questions about the greater issue of disability. All pieces of art are subjective and everyone is allowed to have their opinions whether good or bad but it was still a little disheartening to see just how much ignorance was portrayed concerning disability.
Some members of the audience couldn’t understand why that story needed to be told and why as a community, we are championing more meaningful representations in media. Some felt that it was unnecessary to write films about sexual freedom for disabled people, others subtly implied that disabled people shouldn’t have the right to self-determination and that their caregivers are better suited to make decisions on their behalf. I rarely get angry but that day I almost lost my cool. The writer of the film however reaffirmed that the film had fulfilled its intended purpose, to spark difficult conversations and pave way for education/awareness.
The screening for Sungura is still ongoing, the team is travelling from county to county and I would urge all people to come out and experience it, especially those who are members of the disability community.
From Stairs To Ramps: Let’s Talk About Sex, Disability And Wanting To Become A Father
From Stairs To Ramps: Facing Misconceptions About Disability And Intimacy