Rachel Mwanza

Rachel Mwanza is an actress from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, best known for her performance as Komona in the 2012 film War Witch (Rebelle). Prior to being cast in the film, she was homeless and living on the streets of Kinshasa.

Rachel Mwanza
Rachel Mwanza at a TEDx presentation in Paris, October 2014
Years active2013-present

Early life

Mwanza was born in 1997 in Mbuji-Mayi, the third of six siblings, and spent her early childhood in Kasai Province.[1] Her father dispatched her mother and siblings to Kinshasa when she was eight years old, promising to rejoin them later. There, the children no longer attended school, and her mother held her responsible for the family's misfortune after a false prophet stated Mwanza was a witch.[1] He charged her mother for attempted exorcisms to rid Mwanza of witchcraft, but eventually she was thrown out on the street.[2]

Mwanza spent several years living as a street child in Kinshasa before being cast in the Canadian film War Witch (Rebelle).[3] She also appeared in the 2013 film Kinshasa Kids written and directed by Marc-Henri Wajnberg.[4]

She later moved to Montreal, where she attended the high school École Lucien-Pagé and lived with the family of Anne-Marie Gélinas, the associate film producer for War Witch.[1][5]

Acting career

Mwanza was cast in Rebelle after director Kim Nguyen and producers Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin saw her in a documentary film on the street kids of Kinshasa.[6] Due to her lack of education, she did not know how to read or write when she was first cast in the film; the filmmakers have since made arrangements to pay for her education and housing until she turns 18.[6] In February 2013, she was granted a visa to allow her to attend the Academy Awards,[7] as it was the Canadian entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The visit combined attendance at the awards along with promotion work for Rebelle while she was in the United States.[6]

Mwanza's performance in Rebelle garnered her awards including the Silver Bear for Best Actress from the Berlin Film Festival,[3] the Tribeca Film Festival and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle in 2012, as well as the award for Best Actress at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards[8][9] and Québec Cinéma.[5]

Mwanza subsequently wrote a book titled Survivre pour voir ce jour, describing her childhood and experiences in the hope that it would both inspire young people but also bring attention to the 20,000 children who live on the streets of Kinshasha.[2][4]


  1. Auffret-Pericone, Marie (18 March 2014). "Rachel Mwanza, une survivante à Kinshasa". La Croix. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  2. "Rachel Mwanza : "Je reviens du petit enfer de Kinshasa"". France 24 (in French). January 16, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  3. "Rachel Mwanza, the incredible destiny of a street child". Jambo News. February 29, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  4. Malagardis, Maria (24 February 2014). "Rachel Mwanza. Cendrillon du Congo". Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  5. "Rachel Mwanza, vedette du film Rebelle, de passage à l'école des Pionniers de Trois-Rivières" (in French). Radio Canada. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  6. Szklarski, Cassandra (January 30, 2013). "Oscars 2013: Rebelle's African teen star trying to get visa to attend awards". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  7. "Oscars 2013: Congolese War Witch hopeful gets US visa". BBC News. February 21, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  8. "Montreal director Kim Nguyen's Rebelle wins two awards at Tribeca Film Festival in New York". Montreal Gazette. April 27, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  9. Barnard, Linda (March 3, 2013). "Canadian Screen Awards raises the star wattage". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 30, 2016.

Further reading

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