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Peres Owino talks about ‘African Queens: Njinga’ on Netflix

Peres Owino chatted about her Emmy nomination for the series “African Queens: Njinga” on Netflix.

Peres Owino
Peres Owino. Photo Credit: MK McGehee.
Peres Owino. Photo Credit: MK McGehee.

Peres Owino chatted about her Emmy nomination for the series “African Queens: Njinga” on Netflix, and working with Jada Pinkett Smith.

This docuseries, executive produced and narrated by Jada Pinkett Smith, is about warrior Queen Njinga of Angola, and it features expert interviews and reenactments. It earned a total of 12 Daytime Emmy nominations, which included a nod for “Outstanding Writing Team for a Daytime Non-Fiction Program” for Owino.

Owino on her 2024 Emmy nomination

On her 2024 Emmy nomination, she said, “It was exciting, and it was humbling.” “I had really tight shoes on,” she jokingly laughed.

“All in all, it was great. It was great to be able to sit in the same room with all the nominees, especially the nominees for ‘African Queens’ because we had never met in person; everything was happening via Zoom, so to meet in person at the Emmy Awards was great,” she elaborated.

“African Queens: Njinga” explores the lives of prominent and iconic African Queens. The first season will cover the life of Njinga, the complex, captivating, and fearless 17th century warrior queen of Ndongo and Matamba, in modern day Angola.

The nation’s first female ruler, Njinga earned a reputation for her blend of political and diplomatic skill with military prowess and became an icon of resistance.

Owino on making history as the first Kenyan woman to garner an Emmy nomination

Owino made history about becoming the first Kenyan woman to earn an Emmy nomination. “That makes me laugh a bit,” she admitted.

“The Emmys have been around for so long, and that’s something that you can’t really grasp because it’s a uniquely American thing. Then, for somebody else to come in, and to be nominated — let alone win an Emmy — seems like such an odd thing,” she explained.

“I’ve been watching shows that have been nominated for Emmy Awards my whole life but from the outside. Now, I’m on the inside, and it’s almost an out-of-body experience,” she acknowledged.

Lessons learned from ‘African Queens: Njinga’

On the lessons learned from this project, Owino said, “This project reinforced how fundamentally I love African history, and how important African history is, not just to Africans, but in the eyes of global history.”

“I hope this project helps the world understand who we are as a race, and how we are all connected to each other, and the lessons that we can learn from one another whether it’s from past wins or from past losses,” she said.

“Africa is such an old continent, and we have a lot that has been passed on to us (that is oral and not written) but we have so much to give to the world. We have a very uniquely different perspective,” she added.

Owino continued, “It is interesting because I identify wholly 100 percent African and 100 percent Kenyan just because I came to the United States when I was over the age of 15.”

“What that has allowed me was to specifically ask for very authentic African voices, and I am very grateful to Netflix and Jada Pinkett Smith for allowing me to do that,” she noted.

“Initially, we were in a dialogue amongst ourselves about what it is to be African, and what the African voice is, and what the African female voice is, which at times is more absent than most,” she said.

“It has allowed people to accept a different perspective of how the world can be viewed from a different lens,” she added.

Owino on working with Jada Pinkett Smith

On working with Jada Pinkett Smith, she said, “It was fun! It is very inspirational to work with someone who fundamentally is looking at the world from a different lens.”

“Jada really wanted to do this, to create a space where her daughter, Willow, could hear the voices of great African women from the past, and the other threads that are woven in our DNA. I think that was a really powerful thing to do,” she said.

Advice for young and aspiring filmmakers and storytellers

For young and aspiring filmmakers and storytellers, she said, “I always tell people to find their sense of purpose in storytelling because that is fundamental and explore why these stories have to be told. That is the theme that sustains you, honestly.”

“You have to be interested in what you are writing, and you have to stick to it otherwise you lose faith in your content, and you lose faith in yourself. You need to have a very clear sense of purpose as to why you are doing what you are doing,” she said.

Stage of her life

On the title of the current chapter of her life, she revealed, “A lioness, when she hunts, does not roar.” “I love this quote,” she noted.

Superpower of choice

If she were to have any superpower, Owino responded, “If I am having a political conversation, I would want to be invisible because I want to see what is happening in this room. Otherwise, it would be to control human minds… That would be powerful!”

Success

Regarding her definition of the word success, Owino said, “When I die and I cross over to the ancestral plain, success would be my ancestors telling me that I have done well.” “That, to me, is success,” she admitted.

Closing thoughts on ‘African Queens: Njinga’

For fans and viewers, Owino remarked, “First of all, watch it! You have to let these characters be human, where you show both the vices and the virtues.”

“You can’t just make gods out of men like we usually do with western history because they are not all perfect. That is the correct way you tell history,” she observed.

“Seeing them as they are, with their vices and virtues, they are capable of attaining greatness. The greatest power of history is honesty,” she concluded.

To learn more about Peres Owino, check out her IMDb page, and follow her on Instagram.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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