Renowned Citizen TV actor thespian Charles Bukeko, popularly known as Papa Shirandula, (pictured above) was on Monday morning laid to rest at his home in Nanderema, Samia Sub-County in Busia County.
Bukeko was buried by public health officials under the strict adherence to the public health Covid-19 body disposal guidelines. Only close family members comprising his wife, children and parents were allowed access to the gravesite apart from the public health officials.
While recounting the moments to his death, his wife Beatrice Ebbie Andega said Bukeko breathed his last while still in the car awaiting admission to the hospital. The widow lamented how she told the medics to run a series of test on the deceased before making a conclusion on his Covid-19 test alone.
Among the mourners were a group of actors and actresses who starred with Bukeko on Citizen TV’s comedy Papa Shirandula, where he was the main character. They included Jackline Nyaminde (Wilbroda) who acts as the deceased's hen-pecking wife, Juma Anderson (his no-nonsense boss) and Jacky Vike (Awinja) who acts as his cheeky stepdaughter. Others were Mshamba and Prof Eshuya, all who have worked with him at some point in theatre.
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About Bukeko, Nyaminde said he was more than workmate to her because their interaction was beyond the glares of the camera on the acting stage.
“We would meet and hold a conversation for a very long time. Charles was more than just a colleague whom I acted with. He is a family and a neighbour to me,” said Nyaminde.
Vike (Awinja) paid a glowing tribute to the fallen actor saying he accorded her a platform rich with opportunities. She remembered how she made entry into acting with the help of Mr Bukeko who was already established in the industry.
Papa’s youngest brother Nick Wafula termed his death as a big blow to the family.
Wafula said that Bukeko cracked the jokes even at home whenever he visited the village. According to Wafula, Bukeko always sought advice from his father and brother on whatever he wanted to do.
“Sometimes even when on the table having a meal he cracked jokes and it was part of his business and character,” said Wafula.
Wafula maintained that Bukeko was not only a key figure in their family but generous as well. “Anytime you reached out to him seeking for financial assistance he rarely disappointed us.”
“It is a big void that will never be filled but we are praying to God to give us strength,” he added. Beryl Achieng knew Bukeko many years back when they were still acting in Tausi.
She regretted that Bukeko died before he accomplished his dream of setting up a theatre in Busia so that upcoming actors can showcase their talents.
“He had a plan of constructing a theatre in Busia when he realised there were many talents but there was nowhere to practice and explore the talents,” said Achieng.
“We have to remember him because he was a brand ambassador od global organisation therefore the county and national government should name a road after our departed actor,” she added.
She said Bukeko was naturally talented and groomed many actors. Asmin Juma said she knew Bukeko as her neighbour and remembered vividly how the late interacted with people whenever he was in upcountry.
“He never looked down upon anyone whether old or young and that is why people of Burumba C loved him and interacted freely when back in the village,” said Ms Juma.
Bukeko’s body arrived at his rural home at 3 am on Monday and remained in the hearse from which it was ferried to the grave. To limit the flocking of mourners, and possible breach of Covid-19 rules, gates were locked to prevent villagers from streaming into his compound. Beside this was the presence of security personnel to enforce order and calm to ensure quick and dignified burial.
Public health officials fumigated all the vehicles which arrived from Nairobi, and there was a standby person to clean the microphone before each speaker took to the podium to pay tributes.
Normally in the Luhya custom, the body of someone of the calibre of ‘Papa’ must be taken to the house first and later removed for burial after arriving home. However, this was never followed due to the limited time for the ceremony.
Bukeko died on Saturday after a short illness.