In 2014, Ian Mark Kimanje was working on a documentary in Hollywood when he received an email from Debbie Gordon, now the retired director of the Kids’ Media Centre in Toronto, Canada, urging him to travel back to Kampala to meet up with her deputy, Emily Devries.
At the time, Kimanje, 30, was the founder of African Children’s Television and Film Foundation (ACTFF) based in five Africa countries.
Gordon was hoping that Kimanje and Devries would meet face to face and talk about the kid’s media industry in Africa and in the long run strengthen ties between theirs and his organisation.
“I got on a plane and flew back to Uganda. The evening after my arrival, I met Emily at the National theatre,” Kimanje says.
The first meeting
Their first meeting was a professional one. They talked about the industry and shared hopes as well as dreams for the future of kids’ media both in Africa and North America.
“But one interesting discovery I made during our conversation was that we both had the same Christian faith something that is rare with people in this kind of industry,” Kimanje says, adding, “We exchanged contacts and stayed in touch not only to talk about the realities of our faith in the arts industry but also for business reasons.”
Kimanje stayed in Kampala a little longer than expected and so did Devries.
“I wanted to see her again after the first meeting. So I texted her mentioning that it was a shame that she came all this way and we did not even take a photograph together to show her boss that we had met,” he says, adding, “So we went for our first date. We shared a bottle of soda and laughed at every word we said to each other.”
Aside from his smile, Devries says she got attracted to Kimanje because he was a big dreamer. “Ian is a person full of amazing ideas, and though they might scare some people, I find them exhilarating,” she says.
On the other hand, Kimanje says he fell for Devries because of her faith in God and their compatibility.
“Right from the first time we met; she would crack my ribs and laugh at my jokes no matter how weird they were. She thought I was hilarious, which I am not. But also, she loved my work,” he says.
When the relationship became stronger, Kimanje thought it wise to ask for Devries’ hand in marriage.
“I have never been terrified of asking for anything from anyone but asking another man (Devries’ father) to allow me marry his daughter did. It took me a week of trying to figure out which words to use and how to say it to him,” he says.
After a week of struggling to come up with the right words, he eventually made the bold move and his request was granted.
The couple got married on August 26, 2017 in Canada. About 115 people mostly from Uganda, Tanzania and China attended the wedding.
During the occasion, Devries surprised the congregation by saying her vows in Luganda, a local Ugandan dialect. One of the couple’s friends recorded this bit and shared the video on Facebook.
“Ian and I wrote our own vows instead of using pre-written impersonal vows. A friend then translated them to Luganda and I recorded myself reciting them. I then spent four months listening to and rehearsing the translated version,” she says.
The 27-year-old mastered every word that she effortlessly recited during the church event.
The pinch of racism
Kimanje says racism actually comes from both blacks and whites.
“I was originally shocked to see the prevalence of black people being upset with or disapproving of Emily, other than that, there has not been anything too shocking,” he says.
Whenever anyone tries to make a distinction between them, Kimanje says, they choose not to internalise it.
The hardest part for Devries so far has been some of the unpleasant reactions from members of the African community.
“For the most part, everyone has been welcoming and understanding, but occasionally, some girls give me an angry look when they see me holding Ian’s hand, or in one case, a woman practically ignored that I existed. It does hurt a little bit,” she says.
Very often, Kimanje reminds his wife that it should not worry her that some people are upset by their marriage as it is not their (couple’s) problem.
The couple is still contemplating in which country to finally settle as they have work in both Africa and North America.
Mark Kimanje. Kimanje, 30, the founder of Film Garage Studios, a production company. In 2014, he founded a non-profit organisation, African Children’s Television & Film Foundation.
Emily Devries. Devries, 27, is a Canadian citizen. She is a writer, story producer, researcher, and musician. She specialise in content made for children.