Olwenya Maina: Celebrating One Of Kenya’s Finest Actors

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Olwenya Maina: Celebrating One Of Kenya's Finest Actors
File image of Nairobi Half Life actor Olwenya Maina. |Photo| Courtesy|

Olwenya Maina was a renowned actor and voice over artist. He is famed for his role as “Oti” in legendary award-winning Kenyan film Nairobi Half Life that hit the screens in 2012.

Kenyans and the entertainment fraternity alike was shocked to the core following the news of Olwenya’s demise on Monday, July 4, 2022. According to reports, the veteran actor collapsed and was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Nairobi.

Olwenya will be remembered for his roles on television and various peace efforts across the country. Here is his story as told by WoK.

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Background & Education

Olwenya was born and raised in Kangemi, Nairobi. He attended Kangemi Primary School before proceeding to Murang’a High School. He, however, did not complete his secondary education at the institution and was forced to return to a high school in Nairobi for family reasons.

He also attended Akiba School between 2003 and 2005.

Olwenya Maina: Celebrating One Of Kenya's Finest Actors
File image of Nairobi Half Life actor Olwenya Maina. |Photo| Courtesy|

Career

Olwenya began his acting career in 2006, featuring mostly in theatre arts. Though prominently known for his role in Nairobi Half Life, the celebrated actor featured in several other films including, Poacher, Story of Our Lives, Taliya, and Pendo.

He featured in one episode on Plot 10 which aired on KBC, before joining Sisimka Productions, where he acted in Wash and Set. He also played Alex Maranga, a producer, on the show Guy Center.

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Olwenya joined Heartstrings Kenya in October 2009, as part of the creative team for the Churchill Show. He also featured in two episodes in the show Changes and played Uncle Joe in Shuga 2 and as Kaka in Mali.

According to a report by The Nation, Olwenya enjoyed working with children and taught theatre in churches and schools.

The veteran actor was also a voice over artist for Radio Africa and Radio Jambo, and is behind several promos produced by the media houses.

Olwenya was always positive about the arts industry in Kenya and maintained that when done right, it was a very well paying sector.

“The problem is that people in Kenya equate acting success with money, which should not be the case. Artists should earn enough to be comfortable, but satisfaction in your work is what counts the most,” he told the Nation.

Olwenya was also part of the cast for the movie Country Queen set to premier on Netflix this July. He was cast in the film as a journalist. He featured in the film alongside the likes of Nini Wacera, Shiks Kapyenga, Blessing Lung’aho, Melvin ALusa, among others.

Country Queen is a family drama that tells the story of ordinary Kenyans fighting against a corporate power that threatens to destroy their homes and lives. The series focuses on the issues of land grabbing and exploitation and how these factors impact the lives and relationships of the main characters their families and communities.

Olwenya Maina: Celebrating One Of Kenya's Finest Actors
The Nairobi Half Life cast. |Courtesy| One Fine Day Films|

Awards and Recognitions

His role in Nairobi Half Life saw him garner multiple nominations including best supporting actor in the AMAA (Africa Movie Academy awards 2013).

Death & Tributes

Olwenya collapsed and died while he was being rushed to hospital on Monday, July 4, 2022.

Classic FM radio host, Maina Kageni described Olwenya as a talented young man who had the future in front of him.

“We’ll miss you here at Radio Africa… among the very best voices in East Africa…. great actor, superb talent!!!! Recalling your outstanding role in the movie Nairobi Half-life… what a game-changer you were, big boss! Rest In Peace,” he eulogised.

While paying tribute to the fallen actor, Nini Wacera described Olwenya as a talented actor who portrayed his roles to the best.

I was also in Nairobi Half Life and we did that scene with him and that was a very powerful scene. One of the things about working with him, Maina was a talented actor but also a very troubled soul and that gave him such depth as a creator and actor within this industry.

It gave him such magic, he was always very authentic and he was always very real so when you knew you were playing a scene with Olwenya Maina you knew you were really coming to play,” Wacera eulogised, adding that it was heartbreaking to lose the actor at such a young age of 34.

Olwenya Maina: Celebrating One Of Kenya's Finest Actors
The Nairobi Half Life cast. |Courtesy|

Country Queen Director Vincent Mbaya said it was important to celebrate Olwenya’s life now that he did not get to see the launch of the upcoming movie.

I think we really need to celebrate him and the fact that he was on Country Queen and this is happening just before we launch, I think it’s important we celebrate who he was as an actor and what he brought,” Mbaya stated.

Deputy President William Ruto remembered Olwenya as a brilliant actor who has exited the stage far too soon.

“I mourn with the family, friends and colleagues. We have lost a genuine talent, a dedicated creative and a good man. Like all great talents, Maina will live on through his work. Safiri Salama,” DP Ruto twitted.

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