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Mama Kayai: I Built My Maisonette And Educated My Children From Acting, Her Career Journey, Supportive Husband And Meeting Ojwang In 1985

Being in the highly competitive showbiz industry from the 80s and remain relevant to date is the preserve of legends. Mama Kayai, real name Mary Khavere, came to the scene, learned the ropes from the very best and stayed the course.

The former Vitimbi actress was so good at what she did that a section of Kenyans thought that she was the real wife of Ojwang who played her on screen husband. That’s how good she was. This writer takes you through the journey of Mama Kayai to the apex of her career.  

Here is her story as told by WoK.

Mama Kayai Husband

The actress was married to the late Saidiel Matano. In an interview with SDE, Mama Kayai said her late husband was very supportive of her acting career and understood the role she played as the wife of the late Mzee Ojwang was purely professional. 

Mama Kayai Children

She has five children, all boys. She is also a grandmother. 

Mama Kayai Career

Before She was bitten by the acting bug, Khavere was a traditional dancer and singer with The Black Golden Stars. She told Eve Magazine of her entry into the entertainment world:

“I started out as a traditional dancer and singer with a group, known as The Black Golden Stars, in Majengo, Pumwani where I lived. They were so talented at singing and dancing to traditional music….” 


The actress met Mzee Ojwang (Benson Wanjau)-who was to play her husband later on Vitimbi-and Lucy Wangui (who was the judge in Vioja Mahakamani until 2014) during her acting auditions.

She told the same publication how the two supported and mentored her to follow in their footsteps. Khavere made her debut in acting in 1980 on the television programme Darubini. He went on to join Vitimbi and Vioja Mahakamani.

Talking to Eve, the actress said the name ‘Mama Kayai’ became a brand because “…never jumped from one television programme to another….”

Her career was on an upward trajectory. Mama Kayai and his on-screen husband Mzee Ojwang had a chemistry that many came to confuse for a true couple. She has however rubbished rumors that she was involved with him romantically. 

Mama Kayai told The Nairobian that she met Mzee Ojwang in 1985 when we did the first Vitimbi show together and our stage chemistry led to the success that the show enjoyed over the years. This and the moments we shared will always remain in our memories.” 

Mzee Ojwang’s real wife Agusu Wanjiru Wanjau was however uncomfortable with the arrangement at first. She told Eve: 

“She was initially wary of our relationship and the misguided notion by a large section of Kenyans that me and Mzee Ojwang were married in real life worsened the situation but with time, it was clear that it was all acting.”

Acting for Head of State And In National Events

Mama Kayai has had the privilege of acting for former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki at State House. Vitimbi also performed at national celebrations. 

Awards Won

Mama Kayai has won a number of prestigious awards including the Kalasha Award. She was inducted into the Riverwood Hall of Fame in september 2018. 

Property she owns

The former Vitimbi actress finds the notion that actors aren’t paid as ludicrous. She owns a spacious maisonette in Mwiki from acting proceeds. Khavere says she has plans to expand the house. She also owns a car and has been able to educate all her five children from her acting career.

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