Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum

The Battle of the Sacred Tree
Watching Wanjiru Kinyanjui's feature film Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum, one would never guess that it was the director’s graduation project from the DFFB. It displays a wit and self-assurance rarely seen in student films. It was also shot far from Berlin, in a Kenyan village with Kenyan actors. The film was based on a short story by the best-selling author Barbara Kimenye. The dialogue alternates between English and Kiswahili, and the soundtrack is by a Senegalese musician called Mamadou Mbaye.
Protagonist Mumbi leaves Nairobi and her abusive husband for her ancestral village. There she clashes with a Christian women's group, whose members are determined to eradicate every last trace of pre-colonial beliefs. They are particularly vexed by a magnificent tree, because the villagers believe it possesses supernatural powers. A cunning mayor and an amorous tailor leap to Mumbi's defence, and in the end it is ants that engineer what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the doyen of Kenyan literature, once referred to as "Decolonising the Mind".
by Wanjiru Kinyanjui
with Margaret Nyacheo, Catherine Kariuki, Roslynn Kimani, Titi Wainaina, Ben Ateku
Germany 1995 English,  Swahili 82’ Colour, 35 mm


  • Margaret Nyacheo
  • Catherine Kariuki
  • Roslynn Kimani
  • Titi Wainaina
  • Ben Ateku
  • Tirus Gathwe
  • Jeff Munene
  • Catherine Njoki
  • Amina Khamisi
  • Pauline Njoroge


DirectorWanjiru Kinyanjui
Written byWanjiru Kinyanjui, based on a short story by Barbara Kimenye
CinematographyFrançois Kotlarski
EditingEva López Echegoyen
MusicMamadou Mbaye
SoundHans-Joachim Beckmann
ProducerKristov Brändli

Produced by


Berlin, Germany

Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB)

Berlin, Germany

Flamingo Film

Paris, France

Sender Freies Berlin (SFB)

Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany

Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

Köln, Germany

Wanjiru Kinyanjui

Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1958, she first studied German and English literature and then film directing. Wanjiru Kinyanjui works as a writer, screenwriter and director and teaches film production at Kenyatta University.


1987 ...wenn ein Fremder dazu kommt...; co-directed by Yvonne Gaerber, 18 min. 1988 A Lover & Killer of Colour; 10 min. 1991 African Time; 22 min. 1992 Black in the Western World; 23 min. 1993 Vitico, eine lebende Legende; 15 min. 1995 Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum (The Battle of the Sacred Tree); 82 min. 1997 Zawadi ya Daudi; 83 min. 2007 Bahati; 40 min. · Manga in America; 57 min. 2009 Africa Is A Woman’s Name; 30 min.


Programme 6

A Lover & Killer of Colour | Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum

Sat Feb 18 19:30

Akademie der Künste

Subtitles: English

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Sat Feb 25 20:00

Kino Arsenal 1

Subtitles: English

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