Kenyan actress Consolate Mboga, popularly known as Connie Kabarry, who is making it big in Nigeria’s Nollywood, has crawled through hell but came out smelling like a rose flower. The business woman, wife and mother of four tells Caroline Nyanga her life story and how she found her way to Africa’s biggest film industry
Have you ever encountered a serious problem in life that seemed to have no solution? It happened to me. With time, it got worse - so bad in fact, that I felt useless, wondering what was wrong with me. I felt like I had nothing good left in life.
I was 14, growing up in Mombasa’s remote Kiembeni estate. I had just lost my father, Richard Francis, the sole breadwinner of our family. His death saw me drop out of school soon after completing my first term as a Form One student at Bishop Okoth Girls, Mbaga, Siaya.
My mother Angela Mwikali had to choose between me continuing with my education and my eldest sister joining university. My mother took up menial jobs to sustain our large family of six children.
However, her effort was not enough as many a time when we ended up with nothing and would go hungry for days.
Occasionally, we got a little help from an elderly man who was a family friend and an employee at Kenya Bus Service. The rent for our two-bedroomed house was paid for by members of the church where my mother fellowshipped.
With the little money she got from her odd jobs and a small kiosk, my mother took me back to Form One (a day school) until the end of third term.
Later on, the ‘family friend’ who frequented my mother’s kiosk offered to support my education but little known to us, there was a price to pay. He soon made clear his intention to marry me and promised to take care of our entire family if I did. Out of desperation, my poor mother gave in and advised me to accept his proposal.
The man was nearly 15 years older than me. He made sure he took me back to school at Changamwe Girls Day School near his home and rented a house for my family next to his home in Magongo.
Despite living under my mother’s roof – I spent quality time with him in his house upon request, mostly after school. Before I knew it, I was pregnant with my first baby at 16. I had to drop out of school in Form Three.
Unable to bear the shame, my mother sent me packing to the man’s house where we were forced to live as husband and wife.
Although we were incompatible in many ways, what kept me going was the fact that we had a child together. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother and siblings who depended entirely on the man for most of their daily needs. In 2004, I conceived and gave birth to my second child.
Under normal circumstances, children are a source of joy in a marriage. Our situation was different.
With time things got worse. There were times when we hardly talked to each other for weeks, and even if we did, we couldn’t agree on anything. Our disagreements would lead to serious physical fights that left me wounded and with no one to turn to. At some point, I even contemplated killing my children and committing suicide.
I had so much anxiety and stress building up in my life, I felt I would explode from all the sadness. I was in a bad situation and needed a way out.
Five months after my baby was born, I lost my mother. I was saddened by her death. I felt it was the right moment for me to do the honourable thing by opting out of my ‘forced marriage’.
As I looked for a chance to leave, I spent time selling charcoal and cooking oil outside our house. I made small profit and the money enabled me to join a local women’s chamaa.
With time, I qualified for a loan of Sh100,000 to enhance my business. I used it to supply food and second hand clothes to neighbours and friends. Soon, my profits improved and things got better.
Meanwhile, I tried to work on my marriage. It was not easy and at the end of 2009, I decided to leave. I had had enough. I took the children and moved across the country to Lolwe estate in Kisumu, where I started a new life.
Once in a while, I would go back to Mombasa to visit to my siblings, in particular my elder sister, before returning to Kisumu.
One day during my usual trips to Mombasa, my sister asked me to accompany her to a club where a Nairobi-based Benga musician was to perform.
The musician was Kevin Omondi Migot popularly known as Dola Kabarry. After the show, my sister introduced me to Dola. I couldn’t have guessed that he would later become my husband.
One day, I received a call from Dola. We went on a date and he confessed to me that he was in a dead relationship and was in the process of divorcing his estranged wife. I felt I had finally met someone who understood what I was going through.
In 2012, Dola proposed to me. Later, after paying the bride price, he took up responsibility of my children. He made sure they attended school and paid their school fees. My eldest child is in now in Form Three while the sister just joined Form One.
My husband is my best friend and the force behind my acting and movie production. When I told him about my dream of being an actress, he introduced me to many Kenyan film producers and actors and actresses. It didn’t yield much at the beginning but he did not give up and encouraged me to look for opportunities elsewhere.
My great moment came in May last year when I contacted a Kenyan family friend, Nelson Sechere, who was on a visit to Nigeria. Little did I know that he was a close ally of Nigerian actor and comedian John Okafor, popularly known as Mr Ibu.
As soon as I informed him of my interest to feature in a Nollywood movie, he introduced me to Mr Ibu who invited me over to the country’s Enugu State to audition for a film role alongside actors Kenneth Okonwko and Nkem Owoh.
My first visit to Nigeria in May last year, saw me feature in my first audition alongside Nollywood stars Nkem Owoh and Kenneth Okonkwo. My role secured me a direct place in the Actors Guild of Nigeria – Abuja Chapter. It also gave me the opportunity to register my Nairobi-based company Conny Kabarry Productions with Nigerian company-Angelic Touch Production.
I had not gone to any film school or received any kind of training in acting but I am glad that I am able to achieve my dream. On February 2, my Nigeria-produced movie Almost Perfect is scheduled to premiere at Prestige Cinema, Nairobi.
The premiere will be followed by an after party held at Egesa East Villa, Nairobi, the same evening and Kisumu’s Dubai Complex the following day, featuring musicians Musa Jakadala and Dola Kabarry. Almost Perfect is shot and directed in Enugu state by Jude Odoh, and produced by myself. I play the role of a woman caught up in a love triangle. It features fellow Kenyan Benta Auma (who plays Conny’s mother), renowned Nigerian actors Nonso Diobi, Chiege Alisigwe, and Dougad.
This aside, I am set to feature in a new movie, Angels and Cheaters, to be shot in April, alongside Mr Ibu where I will be playing the role of Mr Ibu’s crazy girlfriend who is on a mission to destroy his home.
I’m passionate about making movies in Nigeria. My sole mission is to create roles for Kenyan actors in my future movies. I want to see Kenyan talent recognised and appreciated beyond East Africa.
As for my husband, I thank God for giving me a man who is also my best friend. Because of him I have found a new lease of life. My children and I are now happy.
We have established several businesses together. We supply goods, do printing and organise events and we are also in transport business.
I am in the process of making a locally produced movie titled Chozi la Ndoa and another, My Life from Grass to Grace, to be shot in Nigeria.