Kanumba’s shoes a little too big for bongo movie

Friday April 09 2021
Kanumba pic

“Despite Kanumba’s death, Bongo film industry and its players are still living in the past.


On  April 7, 2012, Tanzania lost one of its creme de la creme in the film industry, Steven Charles Kanumba. Considering that nine years have passed since the young and talented actor passed away one might think Bongo Movie industry has grown immensely.

Sadly, with Kanumba’s death the local movie industry suffered its biggest blow to date, leaving a void too big to be filled.

The tragic death of Tanzania’s talented ‘lover boy’ ushered in a period of gloom and sadness in the entertainment realm.

According to experts, it’s not only Kanumba’s death, his feckless management thereafter, or his production company - Steps entertainment that has led to a downward spiral of the local film industry, but the poor performance of Bongo movies has been exacerbated by the digitalization creative work, among other things.

“Despite Kanumba’s death, Bongo film industry and its players are still living in the past where CD was the big deal, nowadays there are many forms of accessing and distributing films, including cinema and online platforms, leaving the outdated local distribution system at a loss. 

There needs to be a change in Bongo movie industry for it to flourish” commented Denis Kuya, a Kenyan film director.


According to him, players in the Bongo movie industry need to think beyond, look for alternatives to revamp the industry.

“Tanzania’s film industry is filled with talents, from actors to directors but action and creative thinking are highly needed for the industry to go a step further, otherwise we will be talking about these issues for years and years,” added Mr Kuya.

Adding that as we commemorate the life of Kanumba, there is a need to carry with us his way and legacy in the industry.

Kanumba used his name and opportunity to market Bongo Movies not only locally but outside Tanzania as well.

There is not much going on in the industry to live up to the legacy he left behind.

All we see are messages and posts on social media of ‘I miss you’, ‘rest in peace’ to honour the late Kanumba.

Bongo Movies industry started to fall apart only two to three years after the self-professed ‘The Great’ passed on, the industry was not doing well despite the huge investments and prestige it had attracted over the years.

We now know the actors’ whereabouts through their social media posts and scandals, but little is known about their work.

“There is at least one person, Yvonne Cherry who has maintained her status in the industry and has gone beyond Tanzania to market her work. Wema Sepetu tried but failed due to the industry’s woes which if not dealt with there may never be a breakthrough anytime soon,” he added.

Unlike in the past, when Kanumba acted as the defining image of the industry none of the compatriots has risen to take up that role after his demise and as a result, the industry is wobbly.

As a true symbol of the nascent industry, he pioneered the East-West collaborations that saw him feature in ‘Devil’s Kingdom’ with Ramsey Noah, a film that attracted a great following both in Tanzania and Nigeria.

Recent efforts by some actors to reach this feat have been only but lukewarm such as when former beauty queen Wema brought in Omotola Jalade at her celebrity event that ended in a mere fiasco as the film could not be viewed because of the filming body’s sanctions.

Way forward

Massive investments alone will not revive the industry, things such as management and regulations guarding the Tanzanian film industry should be looked into afresh.

“Just like how authorities regulate imported milk into the country’s market, the same needs to apply in the film industry. Kanumba’s shoes can only be filled if the industry taps the local market first, relevant authorities and management need to chip in,” said Mr Kuya.

Kanumba rose from being an unknown actor in an industry that was practically non-existent to become a name that slowly but surely became known throughout East Africa and beyond.