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The two lives of Ondiek Nyuka Kwota

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 Hiram Mungai aka Ondiek Nyuka Kwota [Facebook]

Loud and proud is how many would describe Vioja Mahakamani's Ondiek Nyuka Kwota, but the man behind the act, Hiram Mungai, is more measured.

In the comedy acts, Ondiek is a wealthy Luo villager from the horizons of Bondo in Siaya County, but living in the upmarket areas of Runda, Kileleshwa and Karen areas in Nairobi.

In real life, Hiram is a family man, with a background in sales.

“Professionally, I’m a salesman but I drifted from that job into acting because it (acting) is in my blood. At one time, it used to pay us between Sh 300 to 800 per month but we were contented with it,” he says.

Asked how he balances acting with parental responsibilities, he says: “When I’m in an acting hall, I venture there as Ondiek Nyuka Kwota or Man Gidi Oloba but when I’ m at home, I’m the actual Hiram Mungai Ngige who knows his parental responsilities.”

“We also make our children understand that while are on stage, we are at work just like any other profession,” he says.

Hiram says it is important for actors to explain this (characters in plays) to family members to avoid integrity questions from their relatives and friends.

“And since as actors, we are the mirror of the society and therefore our behavior must be a reflection of the expectations of the society,” he says.

On how and why he fits in as a wealthy character in most of the shows he has participated in, Ondiek says: “Most of these skills are inborn and one has to select or be given a position he’s good in if the play is to be entertaining.”

“In acting, it’s all about teamwork and no one can brag of himself or herself as the sole pillar of the play. And with this resulted in our success as the whole Vitimbi or Vioja Mahakamani team,” says the 55-year-old actor.

Their homegrown shows endeared the 'Vitimbi' and 'Vioja Mahakamani' stars to former President Daniel Arap Moi who always had his doors open to them.

“Mzee (Moi) liked us from our first to the last show. Whenever he was tired or was not in a good mood, his first attraction was our group. We were always invited to State House without appointment',” he says.

 Ondiek Nyuka Kwota (left) has a word with former President Daniel Arap Moi after a performance in the 1990s. (Courtesy).

From their exploits, President Moi appointed five members of the team as Ambassadors of Kenya from the 1980s to the late 1990s.

They included Ondiek (himself), the late Mzee Ojwang Hatari (Benson Wanjau), Mama Kayai (Mary Khavere), Vioja Mahakamani Judge (Lucy Wangui) and Prosecutor (the late Gibson Gathu).

Hiram was awarded the Silver Star of Kenya by President Moi on December 12, 1998.

In the 2012 Kalasha Awards, he was voted the Best Lead Actor of that year!

“We feel appreciated when such accolades are bestowed on us and put in our archives. They make us feel proud, appreciated and respected by our children, relatives, friends and dignitaries,” he says.

Hiram says Kenyan artistes are safer with local content.

 Vioja Mahakamani Judge Lucy Wangui (centre) with Ondiek Nyuka Kwota (left) and Makokha.

“It’s the surest bet to safeguard our work and promote our culture that could be easily adored and sell like hot cakes, Nigerian movies being the best example in Africa and globally,” he says.

“Excellence and fame comes through hard work and African culture is not an exception,” says Hiram.

As age catches up with actors, Hiram says, “It is wise to have an extra job to support this initiative. This is because, at a certain age, artistes cannot appear on stage as frequently as required.”

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