Big Girl Small World: Humorous look at middle-class struggles in Nairobi

Big Girl Small World is a 13-part 2024 Kenyan drama-comedy series that follows Ciku, a plus-size woman on a journey of self-discovery.

Photo credit: Pool

At the beginning of the year, I was fascinated by the release of the most streamed shows of 2023. What intrigued me most was that most of the top 10 shows were not modern productions; they were predominantly made up of older nostalgia.

Maybe, but I believe this was because modern shows have strayed from their primary purpose, which is to entertain, and have instead become platforms for social and political commentary.

Creators have forgotten that while addressing important themes is valuable, audiences ultimately want productions that entertain. I mean, there's enough politics and social commentary on social media already.

So, when you hear about a show, written entirely by women about a reasonably plump career woman, those tired of "modern entertainment" you might be quick to dismiss it.

But wait.

Big Girl Small World

Not to be mistaken with Lizzo’s 2015 album Big Grrrl Small World, Big Girl Small World is a 13-part 2024 Kenyan drama-comedy series that follows Ciku, a plus-size woman on a journey of self-discovery after a humiliating scandal.

The series is directed by actor-turned-director Nick Mutuma, known for his work on You Again and Sincerely Daisy. Mutuma also serves as a series producer alongside Kevin Njue.

While the end product is the most important aspect, it’s worth mentioning that the series features an all-female writing team, including head writer Angela Ruhinda (Binti), Gathoni Kamau (Murder Camp), Wanjiru Kairu (The Agency), Safina Iqbal (Disconnect), and Kui Mwai.

The good

So you might think this show is just about a struggling plus-size woman, full of tropes that will leave you more depressed than entertained. However, this is a very entertaining and well-written show. There is much more to the story, and in fact, the weight issue takes a back seat for the majority part of the series.

The show explores other relatable themes, such as family, relationships, friendship, and shifting media culture. It’s a well-thought-out, often funny, and familiar story that uses the ‘plus-size’ aspect as an anchor.

June Njenga's performance as Ciku is incredible. As the story revolves around her, you can see June getting lost in the character and evolving with her Ciku's arc. There are scenes in which by just an adjustment of the costume she transforms into a different person.

The other performances are also generally good, with the exception of Kwame (more on that later). There are many characters with their own interesting arcs that will remind you of someone you know, and there are surprisingly good cameos throughout the episodes that will leave you with a smile on your face.

As a Kenyan, the story is relatable across the board, from the visuals to the stereotypical Kenyan tropes. What makes them funny is that most of us have experienced them, and we can now look at them, but from the outside. Thanks to good character arcs, the story evolves organically. When the inciting incident is introduced in the first episode, the drama escalates relentlessly with each subsequent episode.

Each episode is around 30 minutes, and thanks to good and creative editing and pacing, a lot is explored in a single episode. The B-rolls and drone shots don’t overstay their welcome. Speaking of drone shots, if you’ve watched any Kenyan production, you might have noticed the long, wide shots of the Nairobi skyline that take up the better part of the opening scene in the name of ‘establishing the scene’. In this show, the drone shots are used creatively. They are very short, and small visual elements are added that, apart from adding visual flair, help drive the story forward.

The cinematography is good enough for what it needs to be, and the scenes are competently composed and look visually appealing. There’s a good use of Kenyan music, though sometimes it feels untimely.

Shout out to the costume department, the characters look different, diverse and appropriate throughout.

The stand-up comedy angle with Kassim, while it's the big set-up for the primary conflict, was an accurate reflection of the changing trend of the entertainment scene in Nairobi.


This show feels "safe." It's very entertaining, and most Kenyans will definitely enjoy it, but it doesn't venture beyond that or carve its own unique path.

While it is enjoyable, the concept is overly familiar. For example, I knew a character would visit their rural home, and the depiction of that rural home would follow predictable patterns, which it did. However, I can't take away the fact that the establishing wide shots for the rural scenes are fantastic.

If you didn’t mention that it was written by an all-female team, no one would notice any difference. So, outside of the marketing angle, the "all women writers" aspect doesn't noticeably influence the show. I struggled to see what was new or different about that. But don't get me wrong this is a well-written show.

Kwame (Fidel Maithya) was the most frustrating character for me. Unless it was intentional, while his arc was interesting, Kwame was just Fidel, from his costume to his characterisation.

At times, you can “see" the script and the message might be thrown on your face, but these moments were few and far between.

A Nick Mutuma production

A Nick Mutuma film—or in this case, a show—typically features an ambitious female character whose life is thrown into turmoil, forcing her to confront her deficiencies, usually related to confidence and romance. Plus every now and then, there's a wardrobe malfunction.

Am I trying to insinuate that he can't do anything outside of this formula and that all his future projects should revolve around it? Not at all. My issue has always been that most Kenyan directors lack a distinct style or identity in their work, a pattern that makes their productions easily distinguishable, visually or thematically.


This could have easily been one of those productions that beats you over the head with its themes—weight, self-discovery, and self-worth. Yes, there's a bit of that here and there, but the majority of the show is a very entertaining and well-written look at the struggles the plague your typical middle class Kenyan.

The dramatic moments are grounded by relatable and humorous ones that are familiar and for some may hit home hard.

The performances are really good, shout out to Ciku’s mom and sister. The guest appearances are pleasant surprises, and most importantly, thanks to good editing, the show knows how to effectively utilise drone shots.

X: @stanslausmanthi

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