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PROFILE: Nana Kagga on chasing originality

Kaggale Nana Nabateregga Kagga is a film maker, actress alone, chemical engineer, mother of three, wife and daughter to Mwagale Nalongo Beatrice Kagga and Abdul Kagga from the royal lineage of King Kiggala of Buganda kingdom. Commonly known as Nana Kagga, she was born in Nairobi, Kenya. She comes from a family of engineers; her father, maternal grandfather, and four siblings are also engineers.

In 1979, as lead engineer of Kampala City Council (KCC), Nana’s father was asked to prepare an escape route for then-President Idi Amin as victorious liberation army forces from Tanzania advanced. Kagga had only 24 hours to accomplish the task. But, at the same time, his wife was in labour. Kagga’s life came under threat when Amin’s assignment failed. The family had to flee to Nairobi, Kenya and Nana was born there.

“I am a middle child and the problematic one which is why I create my own reality and stick with it,” she says.

Nana unwittingly gave herself the name she carries today when the first word she uttered was ‘Nana’. Her parents and siblings started calling her that. Even when she entered school, her father registered her as Nana.

At 11 years, Nana and the family returned to Uganda settling in Masajja Busaabala where she has spent most of her life. She went to Kampala Parents School were she completed primary education, joined Gayaza High School, became uncontrollable and was shipped to the Red Maids School in Bristol, UK from where she joined the University of Birmingham and got her chemical engineering degree.

Nana would always return to Uganda on holiday. She moved to the U.S, where she spent two years as a process engineer on U.S military contracts before she launched into her dream of conquering Hollywood from a black woman perspective.

Nana recalls doing well at auditions for a Pepsi commercial for which her only task was to say the word ‘Pepsi’ before the camera for a good pay cheque. She got more commercial deals from KFC and Apple among others.

Under the stage name “Nana Hill,” she was featured in many Hollywood films, commercials and music videos. Some of the movie titles include: He is not that into you, Star Trek, A Good Day to be Black and Sexy, Cowboys and Indians, and Collision. As for television, she was also featured in LIFE, Runway Stars, Uganda’s Jam Agenda, and many others. Nana also made appearances in the play Butterflies of Uganda and music videos for Pink, Amy Winehouse, Sting, and Lenny Kravitz.

During these performances, Nana made friends with Zoey who turned out to be the father of her first daughter; Naava. They married in 2002 and on discovering that she was pregnant, the filming career had to wait. Naava was born in 2011 and four months later, Zoey died.

Nana took a break to Uganda thinking it would only last two months of recovery but she stayed on since.

It was the grand new era of oil in Uganda and chemical engineers were sought after. During her first interview at Tullow Oil, she was asked to explain her previous experience since graduation. Before he could answer, one of the interviewers said, “She is an actress in Star Trek”.

She says she nodded in agreement, adding, “I am a movie actress but also an engineer”.

She was successfully recruited and to date, the team at Tullow Oil refers to her as a ‘special case’.

“Engineering gives you a chance to immerse yourself in objects and numbers and figures where you can make a choice with emotions or not,” Nana says.

For Tullow Oil, she has worked in South Africa and London. In 2014, Nana started writing ‘Beneath the Lies’ a TV series which she sold out to Urban TV. In Uganda, Nana and Meme Kagga, her sister set up Savannah MOON, a content production business that has produced a full-length feature film ‘The Life (2012)’ which was shown on M-NET and a TV Series `Beneath the Lies’. She also manages and nurtures actors and actresses.

With such a busy schedule, Nana still balances work as a mother, wife, engineer and film maker. According to Nana, Uganda’s filming industry has a lot of potential if not for excusing quality for cost and time. She describes herself as an unconventional woman who does not have all the answers but does her best to answer all the questions.

2 comments

  1. Rich man’s daughter just trying to find a purpose in life. Struggling to be an actor, engineer and a mother because she got all of them easier than mere mortals.

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