Tanzania: Seko Shamte

Occupation: Writer, Director and Film Producer

1. Why Did You Pick The Career Path That You Did?

I always say that I didn’t pick film, film picked me. I was always interested in music and media throughout school (played multiple instruments, chairperson of school music club, member of the drama club etc) but it wasn’t until my gap year after form four and right before I went to University when I worked as a radio presenter and sort of fell into media, television and eventually film.

2. What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Cut their hair short, by choice. It’s cliché but strangely empowering. Oh and travel alone somewhere new. You learn so much about yourself.

3. What is on your bookshelf?

Between the World And Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015) Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins, 2015) Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2006) On Beauty (Zadie Smith, 2005) Americanah (Chimamamnda Ngozi Adichie 2013) Things Fall Apart ( Chinua Achebe, 1958)

4. What item in your closet do you wear the most?

I wear an almost daily uniform of blue jeans, long sleeved shirts and mocassins or Chuck Taylors.

5. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I love hip hop and I’m also a DJ.

6. What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

You’ve got to live in the moment because it all goes by so fast. You blink and you’re 50.

7. What is your beauty secret?

As long as your eyebrows are threaded and neat you can get away with not wearing makeup. It’s like a Jedi mind trick.

8. What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made?

Moving to New York City when I was 19.

9. What motivates you to improve yourself?

My inner critic

10. What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

Making my voice heard in a male-dominated field. Production and filmmaking are definitely a man’s game in Tanzania, although that is slowly changing. I have been in sexist situations before during production that has even culminated in kicking actors off my set but ultimately I try to focus on what unique skills my gender have that I can bring to production. Our ability to multitask, our sensitivity when dealing with crew members for a peaceful production, making sure women crew members and actresses aren’t margenilized, pushing for more diversity in the production space and so forth.

11. How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

     My motto in life is to get on with it. While I constantly work on becoming a better version of      myself, I don’t tend to dwell on insecurities. That’s just noise in your head that you can teach      yourself to turn off with practice and meditation. My inner critic critiques but I don’t allow it      to crtiticize.

12. Who and What are some of your Influences

Chinua Achebe, Stanley Kubrick, my mom and dad, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, my husband Amour, spiritually enlightened beings, Winnie Mandela, Miriam Makeba, Julie Dash, Queen Nzinga Mbande, Francis Ford Coppola, Wong Kar-Wai, Lauryn Hill, my grandmothers, Chief Mkwawa of Uhehe, Azzedine Alaia, Danai Gurira

13. Do You Wish You Could've Done Things Differently if given the Chance? Please Explain

Absolutely not. I like who I am and all my mistakes and failings coupled with my tenacity have made me, me.

14. What and Who Inspires You?

My Family, young talented Africans who are making their mark on the world.

15. What Do You Count As Your Greatest Achievement?

Getting the story of Chief Mkwawa of Uhehe on screen, getting the highest rated television show in Tanzanian history (Ze Comedy) on screen when I was Head of Programming of East Africa Television , Writing, directing and Producing my first feature film (Homecoming, 2015)

16. In your experience, what do you think are some of the prevalent issues women face in everyday life, professionally?

I think the main issue is that of balance. Trying to stay true to yourself but also exist within the parameters set out by society. I think in many ways we are socialized to put everyone’s needs in front of our own and we can lose ourselves in that if we are not careful.

17. What Do You Think Needs to be Done to Address These Issues?

I believe that the most revolutionary act of resistance is to love yourself, completely embrace all corners of your being and really hold your own interests at heart. When you are a self-actualized, mentally healthy version of yourself you become a more positive and effective presence in other people’s lives. So self-love and self-care should always be every women’s first priority. That and “No” is a complete sentence. There is no need to over explain yourself and your motivations or downplay your achievements to be liked.

18. 1What Would You Tell another Young Woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

Study it, learn it and apply yourself. Just do the work while keeping your complaining to an absolute minimum.

19. What do you do to give back to your community?

I am part of an education trust that offers scholarships and mentorships to top performing secondary school students in Kilimanjaro region.

20. If you could tell young women one thing, what would it be?

You have the power to manifest anything in your life. There is absolutely nothing that’s not achievable. The only thing that can stop you is YOU.

Gloria Mangi is an award winning, creative, journalist, activist and founder of the award winning African Queens Project and host of Queen Things Podcast.