Africa at the Oscars

Africa at the Oscars

As film enthusiasts around the globe wait with bated breath for the Oscars to air on the 12th of March; we take a look at people of African heritage who have won the world’s biggest film award. Where you aware that a Zimbabwean has won an Oscar? His name is Trefor Proud and this was around twenty-four years ago in the category of “Best Makeup and hairstyling”.

Rami-Malek-1024x1024 Africa at the Oscars
Rami Malek


Rami Malek won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of musician Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Malek is of Egyptian descent (born in the US to Egyptian parents).


2-2 Africa at the Oscars

South Africa’s daughter Charlize Theron won her award in 2004 for her commanding and transformational performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in ‘Monster’. Theron was born in Benoni and started out as a model. She then perused dancing but an injury shattered her dreams. She then decided to go into acting. Theron holds the distinction of being the first African to win in an acting category. She had also received “Best Actress” nominations for ‘North Country’ and ‘Bombshell’.


Daniel Kaluuya won for his role as American civil rights activist Fredrick Allen Hampton Sr in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’. Prior to his win, he was also nominated for “Best Actor” in the horror flick ‘Get Out’. Kaluuya is of Ugandan descent (he was born in London to Ugandan parents).

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Who could forget the night Lupita Nyong’o took to the stage to accept her Oscar and affirmed that “Your dreams are valid”? This was in 2014 when she won the gilded statue for playing the slave

Lupita-Nyongo Africa at the Oscars

Patsy in the Steve McQueen directed ‘12 Years A Slave’. She is also the first black African woman to be nominated and win in any category. Nyong’o is a member of the Luo tribe in Kenya on both her parents’ side, she was born in Mexico but grew up in her native Kenya.


Ted Moore won the award for his work on the 1966 film ‘A Man for All Seasons’. Moore was born in South Africa and moved to England in his teens.

Dion Beebe also won in this category for the 2004 film ‘Memories of a Geisha’. Beebe is a South African born Australian.  

5 Africa at the Oscars


Algeria’s Malik Benjelloul of Algeria took home the prize in 2012 for ‘Searching for Sugar Man’.

Pippa Ehrlich (director), James Reed (director) and Craig Foster (producer) hailing from South Africa won for the documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher’.


Thelma Schoonmaker is from a white American family and was born in Algeria. She has won three Oscars for ‘Raging Bull’, ‘The Aviator’ and ‘The Departed’ out of an impressive eight nominations.

Margaret Sixel is a South African-born Australian who has won the award in 2016 for the movie ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.


Only three African movies have one in this category.

The first winner was the movie ‘Z’ directed by Costa-Gavras. This was in 1969. The next time an African flick won for this category was in 1977 for Jean-Jacques Annaud’s directorial effort for ‘Black and White Color’; the nation being Ivory Coast. To date the last African film to win this honor was the 2005 South African crime drama ‘Tsotsi’ written and directed by Gavin Hood.


Zimbabwean’s own Trefor Proud won in 2000 for the musical period drama film ‘Topsy-Turvy’.

11-1024x576 Africa at the Oscars
Trefor Proud (left) next to co-winner Christine Blundell


The Kenyan born English writer Mark Peploe won for his work in ‘The Lost Emperor’ back in 1987

Ronald Harwood won for adapting the screenplay for ‘The Pianist’ in 2003. Harwood was born in Cape Town then later moved to Britain to pursue a career in theatre.

This year, Nigerian star Tems has been nominated for ‘Best Original Song’ for penning “Lift me up” from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’. Will she win? Your guess is as good as mine and we wait for the Oscars; a night often filled with as much glamour as breathtaking surprises. 

Kudzai Mhangwa

Kudzai Mhangwa is a writer, actor and musician. He writes poetry, plays, essays and short stories. His work has been featured on House of Mutapa, Atrebla Magazine, Ka'edi Africa, Poetry Soup and elsewhere.

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