Another one of Kenya’s foremost TV actors from a generation gone by has been laid to rest today at Kariokor Cemetery. Omar Salim, popularly known as Baba Zero, passed away on Sunday after what many reported as a long illness. He was in his 80s.
Speaking at his interment, Hiram Mungai, popularly known as Ondieki Nyuka Kwota eulogised the pioneer actor as one who taught him a lot and described his death as a big loss to the performing arts community.
“Niliweza kufanya kazi naye tukiwa pale kwenye VoK, baadaye ikabadilika ikawa KBC. Huyu ni mzee ambaye nimesoma mengi sana kutoka kwake (I worked with him back in the days of VoK even before it became KBC (the national broadcaster) and he is someone I learned a lot from),”
Nyuka Kwota said, looking back at the days of black-and white television.
Baba Zero belonged to a generation of pioneering TV performers who became national celebrities almost five decades ago, even though there wasn’t much to show for it especially commercially; the likes of Tamaa bin Tamaa (Peter Lukoye), Ojwang Hatari (Benson Wanjau), Makanyaga (Mohamed Tajiri) and Wariahe, who have all since left us.
Over the years he featured in local shows such as Plot 10, Vitimbi and Kinyonga He also acted with the late Gibson Gathu Mbugua (Prosecutor) as well as Mama Kayai (Mary Khavere) and ubiquitous Judge (Lucy Wangui) in Vioja Mahakami. (See YouTube link below)
Baba Zero was introduced to TV drama by the man many consider to be the Father of Kenyan TV comedy, Athumani Kipanga, and acted alongside the likes of Mzee Pembe (Omari Suleimani) back in the days when TV was still new in many Kenyan households and the national broadcaster was still morphing from its colonial image. He also featured in films such as Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981), Out of Africa (1985) and Mrembo. To a different generation many remember him as the father to Shikwekwe (Nahashon Nabwayo Muhkwaya) in Kinyonga. Shikwekwe joined KBC in 1992 and the father-son union was soon born, becoming so authentic that some believed the two were real-life father and son.
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