Teneille Craig

Kemiyondo Coutinho

Teneille Craig
Kemiyondo Coutinho

Kemiyondo Coutinho

DISRUPTOR

Playwright. Producer. Director. Writer. Actor. Artrepreneur. Disruptor. It is hard to try box Kemiyondo Coutinho into one job title—even for herself, she admits. “People told me it was a cop out,” this multi-talented Ugandan tells OkayAfrica of refusing to pick and stick to one skill. “I was meant to choose one good thing I was to be good at. I was to choose one best thing I am known for. I continue to disrupt this narrative. I am multi-talented in equal measure. I write I act, I direct, I produce, I curate, I edit, I organize events and above all, I disrupt the narrative.”

And she does it all extraordinarily well. Take her latest piece of art, the short film Kyenvu, for example. Not only was this gripping piece of art created by a fully Ugandan cast and crew, but the short film about street harassment in Uganda continues to make waves in film festivals. In February, Kyenvu became the first Ugandan film to be picked up on Hulu. Despite the aversion to boxing herself to one particular skill, Coutinho appears comfortable with calling herself a storyteller. She wrote her first piece of art at age 17 while attending school in Swaziland. As she tells it, she could not find plays that reflected who she was as an African woman. So she wrote, directed and performed a one-woman show. And she hasn’t looked back since. “I find joy in making people feel heard. I love to hear a story that hasn't been heard and put a microphone on it,” she says. But telling stories takes a lot of money, and fundraising is always one of the biggest challenges she runs into. “Films are expensive to make. If I had my way I would be shooting three films a year,” she says. “The stories are there. They are ready. We just need financial backing.” She’s in no way deterred. She has the confidence to take on her next big goal: to shoot her first feature film.

“If you ask me what my crowning achievement is, I will say, it is the resilience to keep making art in the face of a society that still does not value it,” she tells OkayAfrica. “I am a living disruption of narrative. What people say I cannot do, I will do. What is not done, I will teach myself to do. Where others see obstacles, I see opportunities.”