Wajukuu wa mama Bishanga tokaTanzania, Kilian au Mzungu na Mariam ambao ni watoto wa Hery au Kenny wa Mambo hayo, wana sema happy birthday bibi, sisi tumekununulia keki na pipi na biskuti lakini tumekula wenyewe kwakuwa uko mbali, tunakusubiri utuletee zawadi ya ice cream, na daftari na kalamu, tunakupenda sana our grandmom.
Ujue Mama Bishanga ni Nani. - Nyota katika Usanii Tanzania
Kutoka DAILY NEWS - TANZANIA
Mama Bishanga: The actress who filled the ‘Bongowood’ vacuum
By Women Reporter, 19th January 2011
Most knew her as Mama Bishanga, the legendary film actress whose portrayal of an irksome Haya mum left many believing she was from Kagera region. Some hardly believed that in reality she was just playing a part and her real name is Christina Innocent.
But the charming lady is actually a Makua from Masasi, in Mtwara region. Her role as Mama Bishanga in the TV drama not only confirmed her as one of the country’s greatest actresses, but also a pioneer of sorts of the local film industry thay is also referred to as ‘Bongowood’ But the charming Christina Innocent Hatia is actually a Makua from Masasi, in Mtwara region. Her role as Mama Bishanga in the TV drama not only confirmed her as one of the country’s greatest actresses, but also a pioneer of sorts.
With her screen ‘son’ Bishanga (Raymond Allen) and ‘hubby’ Mzee Kambaulaya (Barnabas Maro) and others in the cast capping it with excellent acting, the weekly ‘ Mambo Hayo’ TV drama series became ITV’s hottest program.
“When I started acting in the Mambo Hayo TV series in 1998 I was the first elderly woman actress then”, says Mama Bishanga, who is in her mid 50s now. “I am happy and proud to be the pioneering figure of older women actresses”.
She is sitting in front of me at the office, where she breezed in to pay a courtesy call, about a week since she got back from the United States of America where she now resides, pursuing a degree at the Howard University in Washington DC. She also teaches Kiswahili part time there.
With her is Kenny, her actor son who has just completed University and contemplating going back into acting, after a seven year hiatus. He started acting almost a year earlier, and when his mother joined him in the Mambo Hayo series, the drama became an all time hit at the ITV station.
It was not by accident that Mama Bishanga became an actress. In point of fact, she is one of the few professional actresses who made their names on the silver screen. Thanks to the Butimba Teachers College where she attained an advanced diploma in theatre and fine art, majoring in theatre. That was between 1981 to 83.
Mama Bishanga is nostalgic as she recalls a play called ‘Odupus the King’ that she and her colleagues performed at the Bagamoyo college of art in front of then President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Members of Parliament who had met at the historical town and requested for a treat.
“That was the first ever stage play and the longest because it lasted for about 240 minutes and Mwalimu and the MPs were excited about it”, Mama Bishanga, who played queen, remembers. One Lwilomba played King.
“Mwalimu was exceptionally happy that he made on-the-spot recommendation that the whole class should be positively considered in the final exams because he regarded our performance as a sitting by itself”.
After completing her studies at Butimba, she went to work as a language and arts teacher at the Tabora Secretarial College in Tabora in 1983, six years later she left and went on to become an administrative officer at the National Arts Council (BASATA). In 1992 she went to Swaziland where she studied administration, remembering Kassim Mtawa and Blandina Mhina as some of her fellow students in the tiny South African Kingdom.
Upon her return to Tanzania in 1993 she went back to work at the Ministry of Science, technology and Higher learning. Five years later she went into acting as one of the ‘Mambo Hayo’ series cast. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mama Bishanga maintains that she went into acting due to a number of reasons, apart from feeling the need to utilizing her knowledge as an actress to the hilt.
“During the early days of TV drama series in the country, most actresses were just out-of-school youngsters. There were no older women. I went in with the objective of filling the vacuum. I guess I succeeded “, says Mama Bishanga with a radiant smile on her pretty face.
Indeed, she did succeed in engaging elderly actresses on TV and later on film, because soon after a host of other older women came into the picture, with Mama Mjatta becoming the second elderly actress to become a screen star alongside the youth crop of Waridi, Mona Lisa, Aisha and others.
In 2001 Mama Bishanga was awarded as the best Tanzania actress of the year by M-Net Africa, and she went on to win many a fan with sterling performances before ITV stopped showing ‘Mambo Hayo’ for reasons that have yet to be given.
Coincidently, Tanzania had on that year submitted MAANGAMIZI – THE ANCIENT ONE as its film entry in the Foreign Language Film category for the 74th Academy Awards.
The film, Produced by the Chairman of ZIFF Dr Martin Mhando, competed with foreign language films from 50 other countries around the world, the largest group ever in this category for the Academy. The only other African country in the running was Algeria and Tanzania remained the only sub-Saharan African country in the 2001 competition.
Maangamizi – The Ancient One represented the first ever entry by Tanzania. The film was selected by a group of film, television and theater professionals and was released in Tanzania the last week of October 2001, and was received by excited local audiences.
Yearning for further education despite her age, Mama Bishanga flew to the US in 2007 where she is now studying at the Howard University, where she also moonlights as a Kiswahili teacher. In her spare time she also studies film. She says she is too busy with college to continue acting.
“But I am closely following the film industry not only in Tanzania but also the whole of Africa, especially Western Africa, where they enjoy notable successes.
“The Tanzania film industry is vibrant but still at its embryonic stage. Producers are really doing a good job down here but they lack a lot of important elements that can go a long way into improving the quality and standards of local films.
“Tanzania need professionalism in all spheres of film production; from excellent lighting and sound and fitting location environments to serious casting, make-up and wardrobe”, says Mama Bishanga, who plans to meet with film stakeholders and try to encourage them to be more professional.
Of course, she plans to come back to Tanzania in the near future and show how things are done. For now she has great regard to the entrepreneurship spirit she has seen in Tanzanian women, calling them to try the film industry as well.
“Many women in other parts of the world engage themselves in the film industry which is one of the most lucrative businesses alongside music.
“One does not have to end up being an actress. There are plenty of avenues in this industry that is lacking real professional and passionate players.
“I guess women stand a better chance of turning the tables around if they choose to. Also remember, age ain’t nothing but a number. You know what-am-saying....?
"Therefore I call upon all women, irrespective of age, to enter into the film industry and become silver screen entrepreneurs.
“They wont regret that decision and I know what I am talking about”, concludes Mama Bishanga, as she gathers her things to rush to MAELEZO where she plans to book the auditorium for her press conference next Monday.