On the night of October 28, Shakira Kibirige made Uganda proud by winning two Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAAs) accolades in Nigeria.
The 32-year-old special effects make-up artist and costume specialist’s story is of one who rose from grass to grace. She has risen in the ranks to create a career in film, and most importantly, won Africa’s most prestigious awards in film.
The story of inheriting talent isn’t new in art. Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, for example, is the daughter of actor Jon Voight famous for films Anaconda and Midnight Cowboys.
Kibirige is recreating a similar story and is following in the footsteps of her father, the late Godfrey Kibirige, a famous character in the 80s UTV drama Wokulira. He acted as the famous Kadiidi.
In 2008, Ms Kibirige started keeping around film-makers as she tried to join the industry. She was later given a chance to audition for a film by Osman Matovu. Since then, she has lived and breathed film; working as a make-up artist, costume designer and actress who has won international awards.
Joining the film industry
Kibirige says when she joined the film industry in 2008 as an actress, she was introduced to a crucial role on set.
“My target was to act, but they also needed a hairdresser and because I knew how to plait hair and put some make-up, I took up the make-up department. And when my creative director saw the potential in me, he decided that I lead the two departments – make-up and costume,” Kibirige recalls.
She adds that after meeting film-maker Kroy Kemikisha, who inspired her into joining the film, she worked hard at it until she made it to Matovu’s movie called Ensisinkano ye’bizibu.
“Seeing my name on the screen became an important part in my career, and all that came to my mind was to seek more knowledge about the film by working with established film-makers,” she adds.
Kibirige chose to keep around Kemikisha, who honed her costume and make-up skills and later introduced her to film-maker and special effects artist Michael Wawuyo.
Just like any other Ugandan film-maker, Kibirige has endured a number of challenges such as working on low budget projects, but she says her efforts are paying off, having worked on a couple of international projects and winning awards.
With many players in Uganda’s film industry failing to settle for a particular speciality, Kibirige has branded herself as a special effects make-up artist.
Her first pay from a gig was Shs150,000 for make-up and costume design. She says that made her focus, leading her to work with Richard Mulindwa on Only Son, among other local projects that came her way.
Some of the projects she worked on over the years include Joel Karekezi’s Mercy of The Jungle, Imperial Blue, Bunjako, Bala Bala Sese, Bed of Thorns, 94 Terror, Hanged for Love, among others.
Kibirige later got a chance at a well-paying project when she worked with Hollywood star Lupita Nyongo on Disney’s Queen of Katwe.
Kibirige has won several awards in make-up and costume designs. Her first award was at the Pearl International Festival for her services in Hassan Mageye’s My Wife’s Clan.
Later at the Uganda Film Festival award, she was named best costume designer in the film Freedom.
And 2019 has been Kibirige’s year, having bagged five awards at the international level. Her first was in the United States when she won best costume designer in Dallas for her role in the Ugandan film 94 Terror.
She later won two awards at Ghana’s Golden Movie Awards for both costume and make-up for 94 Terror.
Kibirige also won accolades for a Rwandan-Belgian French film she worked on titled The Mercy of the Jungle that was directed by Rwandan director Joel Karekezi. The film features Ugandan actors such as Abbey Mukiibi, Prynce Okuyo, Joel Atiku and Mathew Nabwiso. Most of the crew was Ugandan and it was shot entirely in Uganda, with two international stars acting in the lead roles.
Kibirige’s latest award has been at the Africa Movie Academy Awards where she won two awards for both make-up and costume design.
Currently, Kibirige is in Jakarta, Indonesia, working on an Indian television series.