Magician Prof Maseseka now lives in poverty and squalor

Prof Masese wa Maseseka (above) would grasp his magic stick, maintain perfect balance and walk on a rope in front of excited primary school kids. Wearing a red ribbon around his head, the magician would eat razor blades and excrete a knife from his rear, swallow burning fire, make people lay eggs or vomit coins, enter inside a soda bottle, make people urinate unwillingly, get snacks from the blues, among others supernatural abilities.

The talented magician and acrobat, performed eye-popping and unbelievable tricks, stunts and magic that stupefied his audience. At his prime from the 1980s to the early 2000s, his performances would awe his audience more so the impressionable primary school pupils.

 He was so popular that when teachers informed pupils that the magician would perform at the school, they would go to every length to raise the entrance fee, even if that meant stealing from their parents.

Later, Prof Maseseka just fizzled from the public arena and was never heard of again as if snatched by a magic spell to a different world. Unknown to thousands of his fans who are now adults, Prof Maseseka, whose real nameis Michael Ruheni, is today a pale shadow of his former self. The once-revered legend is today living in abject poverty and squalor at the remote Kajiji village in Mwea area of Kirinyaga County.

The man who raked in big money and at his height of performances drove a Ford Corsea then a Ford Escort (which was later written off in an accident), led life on the fast lane and still bought several parcels of land today lives in a ramshackle of mud house together with his 16-year-old special needs son. He ekes a living by growing and hawking mango seedlings on his rickety old motorcycle that during his heydays he would ride on walls of a house while performing.

 So dire is his situation that he admits they are not assured of the next meals. The Mt Kenya Star traced the magician to find out who he really was, unravel the tricks that he performed and find out why he vanished before the eyes of his fans, literally.

Prof Maseseka was educated at Kiaritha Primary School then joined Karia Secondary School for his O-levels. He attended his A levels at Makupa High School and afterwards became a primary school teacher.

Prof Maseseka would later pursue professional teaching at Kamwenja Teachers College through in-service scheme and taught at diff erent schools mainly in Kirinyaga County. His Teachers Service Commission (TSC) no was 68313.

His last school was Rukanga Primary School then he resigned on January 4, 1979. Prof Maseseka still keeps the acceptance letter signed by JT Afanda on behalf of TSC. “I have the pleasure to inform you that your resignation has been accepted with effect from March 1, 1979, with regret…On behalf of TSC, I wish to thank you for the service you have rendered to the teaching profession and I wish you a bright future elsewhere,” it reads.

Inspired by two magicians, Prof Maseseka started performing while still a teacher and resolved to resign when his earnings from performing far surpassed that of teaching.

 “My salary as a teacher was Sh3,000 in a month. When invited to perform during public events, I was paid Sh5,000 for a single day, which was a lot of money then,” he narrates.

From his savings, Prof Maseseka travelled to Zaire-now Democratic Republic of Congo-where for two years he learnt black magic, white magic, acrobatics, powersaw and heap dancing.

“On return to Kenya, I was such a fine magician that even corporates came looking for me,” he says. The highlight of his performances was crossing River Tana in the Garzen area walking on a wire through the sponsorship of British American Tobacco (BAT) where he was paid Sh100,000 (twice).

“The theme of the performance was to popularize Sportsman cigarette among adult smokers while discourage underage smokers. “As I performed, I would say that the cigarette was for teachers and professors and not for pupils,” he recalls.

 Appearances at corporate and government functions endeared Prof Maseseka to many and he continued making top money appearing in schools, markets, barazas, ceremonies all over Kenya and even Tanzania.

He says black magic is hidden science which he cannot reveal what happens it as he took an oath from his trainers that he should never disclose that to the uninitiated. He says he used special medicine obtained from Zaire to perform white magic.

White magic, on the other hand, he explains, entailed applying conjuring tricks in which something is made to appear or disappear as if by magic, by fast movement of the hand.

 “In white magic, I would use tricks to make you think I have turned an egg into a bread whereas I had the bread with me all along. Knowledge of science, that is physics, chemistry and biology would help a lot.

“In black magic, I would actually turn the egg into a bread,” says the magician who consumed blazing pieces of wick and chewed and swallowed a rusty, old razor blade and strings during the interview.

While performing in schools, his favourite trick was producing an oversized pant that he would gift a girl to excite pupils.

“I would require the girl to pronounce a tongue twister. If she failed, I would produce a pant from nowhere to entertain the crowd since such garments are not usually shown in public. If she got it right, I would make her vomit money,” he says.

 In 1983 when he ruled the magic world locally, Prof Maseseka married Ann Rwamba, a woman from Kathanjuri area of Embu County who was then a secondary school student. He taught her his magic and soon they started performing together. Her stage name was Cinderella.

She was also a hit and they become so much sought after that when they got two invitations on the same day, they would perform separately. They were blessed with three girls who are now adults with two now working as medics, according to Prof Maseseka.

He regrets that around 1989, their differences with Cindarela become unsolvable and they divorced. “When she started making big money, she thought she could go it alone. We separated and she continued performing magic alone. We lost contact. However, I sometimes make contacts with the girls,” he says.

Prof Maseseka had several other women in his lives and whom he separated with. He married one of them and they were blessed with the special needs son in 2003.