Ann Hamberger ,takes the lead in Swahili productions
Ann Hamberger ,takes the lead in Swahili productions
At the tender age of 10, Ann Hamberger was already an accomplished actor appearing on a series of plays being aired on Kenyan television channels.
Her debut on the stage was while in class four alongside her childhood bosom friend and a star actor – the late Ashiner kibibi- with whom they prominently featured in the episodes by the Moto Moto Drama Group.
“It was during this time that we featured in popular series known as Tausi which was aired on KBC alongside Yusuf Dalu, Denish Kashero, Tony Msalame and many others who are now producers or directors.
On our appointed date for this interview, Ann arrived at her Ashiner Pictures offices well behind the agreed time with her beautiful daughter tagging along.
She approached me, hand stretched out for a warm greeting complete with a broad smile caressing her face while apologizing at the same time for keeping me waiting.
“You know we have to multi-task,” she said as her face lit up with excitement and a calm voice.
“I am a mother, a wife and also the CEO at the same time, am sorry for keeping you waiting.”
Shortly after setting down for the interview we were disrupted by the noisy technicians who took the opportunity to fix the studio machines taking advantage of the fact that there was no production done in-house on this particular day.
We opted to move to her plush garden office behind the building cooled by the soft breeze sweeping from the nearby Indian Ocean and the swaying palms, for our interview.
After being an actress for several years with the Moto Moto drama group, Ann decided to move to the next level coming up with her own first production in 1997 called Kasheshe.
The production was aired at the KBC becoming an instant big hit. Also starring in the same production was the late Ashiner kibibi.
During this time Ann, had also joined the national broadcaster –KBC’s Mombasa station as an intern.
Her second production called Asali was the first Swahili production to be aired on the Kenya Television Network which by that time featured mainly international programs.
In 2005 after the late Ashiner kibibi past on, Ann decided to quit her hotel job to concentrate on the entertainment industry. That saw the birth of the Ashiner Pictures Limited in honor of the late Ashiner kibibi.
This was also to fulfill Ashiner’s death wish – of promoting Swahili productions on the local TV channels.
Ashiner Pictures formed by two directors Ann Hamberger serving as its Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Henry Lenga, a script writer and a director.
Both Ann and Henry met few years before the creation of the Ashinner Pictures while producing a play Majaliwa which was aired on the Citizen Television.
“We had the same vision, the same passion and we decided to continue with the torch lighting Swahili programs in our local television channels,” she said.
“Our main aim was to promote Swahili contents since our art scene in the coast was almost dead.”
Initially, she said productions from the Coast were not well received nation-wide because people kept saying nothing good comes from the Coast. There were no good productions then despite the Coastal region having rich talents and beautiful sceneries.
Ann and her colleagues decided to revamp the art industry in the region by nurturing youths from the Coast. Most youths from the region were school drop outs, victims of drug abuse and all other vices.
“Ashiner Pictures is today more of a school as we currently have over 40 youths as permanent crew and we have a pool of over 100 artists to choose actors from whenever we have a production,” said Ann.
Ashiner Pictures today boasts of over 50 movies and Seven long series. Of the 100 episodes some of the most popular titles are Sumu, Almasi, Utandu, Cheche, Kashfa ,Nyota among others.
All these have been aired at Maisha Magic- a subsidiary of the subscription-funded television channel broadcast in South Africa, KTN which is one of the leading television stations in Kenya, K24 powered by Mediamax Network Ltd - one of the fastest growing media houses in Kenya today, Kenya’s national Broadcaster- KBC, Royal Media Services owned CITIZEN and AZAM TV which is owned by a Tanzanian business tycoon Said Bakhresa.
But why Swahili contents? Ann put on a smile and said:
“I am from the Coast and Swahili is more or less the Lingua franca here and we find it more natural for our artists act in Swahili.
The decision to adopt Swahili as the language for their production was however arrived at after a sufficient research was done and established that there was a niche for the same.
The biggest challenge in Kenyan media industry, Ann said, is selling productions after the infiltration by the cartels.
“We have a lot of good content creators in Kenya, but they don’t have a TV airtime to show them.”
Most Kenyan TV stations air mainly international programs like Afro cinema largely from the Nigerian film industry, Mexican soap opera etc.
Raia TV was launched on 6th October 2017, and has grown rapidly emerging position 17 in a Media Measurement Service poll out of… within the first month of inception.
The most recent audience survey placed the station at 7th overall position.
Ann, a mother of three was born and brought up in Mombasa. She schooled in Mombasa from primary to college. Her ambition is to steer Ashinner Pictures to international levels.