In 2021, women have been in the spotlight with Kamala Harris becoming US Vice President, Samia Suluhu now Tanzania President and for the first time in decades two women were nominated to the Oscar Awards and one carried the Best Director category.
Tanzanian film director, producer and writer, Seko Shamte, is also putting her passion, talent and potential into building a more gender-equal world.
Shamte has directed films and documentaries including, Mkwawa: Shujaa wa Mashujaa Hehe hero, Team Tanzania, Jikoni na Marion, a television cooking show, Home Coming and Mid Night and the latest film, Binti.
How did your journey start and why a career in film?
I always knew I was going to work in the creative space. I love the arts and had boundless imagination as a child.
I worked in radio when I was 17, then television as Head of Programming at East Africa TV from 2005 to 2008. I was straight out of university and only 23 years old, but I had so many ideas that eventually became shows like Nirvana, Ze Comedy, Friday Night Live with in collaboration with fellow producers at the station. I felt it was time to go and expand my horizons in 2009. I started Alkemist, doing stories for CNN’s Inside Africa then qualified for a grant to do my first big project, Mkwawa in 2011.
What’s your advice to younger women seeking the same path you have chosen?
As we strive towards our goals, we invariably fall or stumble, but we must keep going.
Do not get entangled in feelings of failure. Speak kindly to yourself, dust yourself up and plough ahead.
What is the one thing you wish you knew before?
I would tell my younger self to not take things too personally.
What keeps you motivated?
I have this overwhelming sense of purpose. I am very clear about what I want to accomplish with my life.
What is your greatest achievement?
My company, Alkemist Media, has been my proudest career achievement so far. I have been able to expand my creative horizons through so many mediums. Creatives and artists tend to focus on one medium – for example TV or feature film, but I have been able to work as a director/producer/writer on documentaries, cooking shows and feature films, which require slightly different skill sets. I am inspired by Dar es Salaam city and its energy.
What is your favourite place in East Africa?
I have been around the region and each place has its unique flavour and vibe. I love it all, for just being East African is elite!
Are there issues women face in their daily professional life? What should be done?
Sexism is prevalent but we deal with it individually, on a person-by-person basis.
However, passing more legislation to ensure women’s safety in the workplace is one of the ways we can attack the existing skewed structures.
Let's talk about Binti
Binti premiered at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles on March 8 on International women’s day. It is a story about the lives of four Tanzanian women. I had a cast of amazing actresses, Godliver Gordian, Bertha Robert, Magdalena Munisi and Helen Hartmann.
The response from Tanzanians was phenomenal. I am blown away by how many men and women we have touched with this film.
Have you faced sexism in the industry and could you share your experience?
Sexism hasn’t been an obstacle for me because, in TV or film, I have always worked as a producer and director and that lands you at the top of the totem pole. I have always wielded a lot of power in that regard and I have used it to protect the women on my sets.
What would you suggest to make East Africa’s film industry bigger and better?
It is growing organically and step by little step we will get the industry bigger, better.
What was your last read?
I re-read the whole Harry Potter series from book 1 to book 8. It was great!
How do you manage your wardrobe?
I love dressing up but don’t like going shopping. So I mostly order clothes online three to four times a year, but I am really not into trendy wear.
What do you do as a 'thank you' for your community?
I am involved in education and work with organisations that help to keep young children in school as well as ease their parents’ burden of taking them to school.