Meet Kenyatta- a 6 mins actor in Film ‘Sanders of the River’

A mention of the film Sanders of the River brings to memories Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as an actor in the film.Many have never known that the First President of Republic Of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta took part as an actor in the film.

But the truth is that indeed Mzee Jomo Kenyatta took part in the film Sanders of the River (1935) and had a bit part in this movie as a tribal chief.

According to Owaahh publication, it was a 6-minute role Mzee never talked about, and with good reason.In an article written in the publication the film, Sanders of the River, is based on Edgar Wallace’s story from 1911.

The story follows Lord Sandi, a colonial-era British District Commissioner in Nigeria, and his African ally, Bosambo. Sanders are a patronizing figure, portrayed as the glue that holds the communities from tearing each other apart.

When he goes on leave, his relief, Lord Ferguson, fails to maintain the peace. The rival King Mofolaba promptly raids Bosambo’s people and kidnaps his wife.

Bosambo is also kidnapped, and the communities go back to their old ways of raiding each other. Peace only returns after the fatherly Sanders comes back and commands a relief force.

Sanders and the colonial British order are clearly the winners at the end of the film.When Sanders is going on leave, between the 34th-40th minutes of the 90-minute long film, a tall African man stands next to Bosambo.

That man is clearly a middle-aged Kenyatta, the future first president of Kenya and father to the current president.

He was on his prolonged stay in Britain and was probably broke and looking for work.

Kenyatta, then about 45 years old, probably knew about the project through Robeson, an African-American immigrant. They most likely met in London’s black community, and an excited Robeson roped in his new friend to the film project.

The publication goes on to explain that Kenyatta got a rather simple role as an extra. All he had to do was wear tribal clothing and stand next to Bosambo, Robeson’s character, for a single scene.

He maintains a serious face throughout the six minutes he is visible, as he is portraying an African chieftain loyal to Sander’s lackey, Bosambo.

For less than a day’s work, Kenyatta earned a guinea, a substantial amount at the time.

Extras who did more than crowd work earned between two to five guineas a day.After his cameo appearance, Kenyatta presented the director with an inscribed silver cigarette case, ostensibly as a token of thanks.

But he had misunderstood what kind of film they were making. So had Robeson.

The movie was released on 8th April, 1935 and was the first of four films producer Alexander Korda would make in a span of four years.

It was also the first film the three Korda brothers, Alexander as producer, Zoltan as director and Vincent as art director, worked on together.

Kenyatta seems to have chosen to forget about it. He became Kenya’s first president three decades later, and never acknowledged his brief on-screen role as a tribal chief.

 

PHOTO/Owaahh publication:A mention of the film Sanders of the River brings to memories Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as an actor in the film.Many have never known that the First President of Republic Of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta took part as an actor in the film.

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