EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW. Things you probably didn’t know about LIKOBE. Get the FULL LIKOBE bio here.
The closest I had ever been to the â€œlittleâ€� man was via the screens.
The show which I vividly remember is in an after-7.pm talk show by Royal Mediaâ€™s Citizen TV long time ago.
Simply I found him to be such an interesting guy and that is what prompted me to put him more on the spotlight.
Later on, I contacted and simply scheduled for a meeting in Town.
After a long wait that was worth it, he finally made it. I still had to reach out for his arm that he had already stretched to the limit for a hand shake. We exchanged a few niceties before the photo session and finally got into the dayâ€™s business.-THE LIKOBE INTERVIEW
Aware of what that was all about, he hurriedly, handed over his KPLC Identity card, just for the confirmation of his official name and workplace.
Aurelian Mwalukumbi Mliwa, so it read.
In the beginningâ€¦
â€œI was born in 1964 June 15th, in Mbololo â€“Taita. I schooled at Kilindini primary be-fore being admitted to Jomo Kenyatta high school for my O- levels.â€� he begins.
In high school however he says co-curricular activities werenâ€™t much of a priority at that point and subsequently therefore, much of his acting skills werenâ€™t exercised or rather exploited at that point in time.
â€œThough acting is a part of me, I didn’t get the best platform in my high school at that timeâ€� He says.
No wonder after high school he left for Mombasa in search for a job. By then, what was common at the coastal town was working either as a waitress or as a driver given that it was a common tourist destination (â€¦and still is)
â€œI had no option but to leave Mombasa since I dint qualify. Much of it was be-cause of my physique. I was too short to be a driverâ€�
Getting back home he resolved to visit Kenya’s capital, NAIROBI CITY.
â€œOne day I decided to go for the auditions at the KBC house. Interestingly In my first audition I qualified and was therefore to join the rest of the cast for Vioja mahakamani.â€� He fondly recalls
It is then that he met other veterans in the local comedy world. One of those that he chooses to speak about is Tamaa bin Ta-maa.
â€œTamaa bin Tamaa (official names: Peter Likoye) was the one who introduced me into acting. Marehemu actually coined the stage man, Likobe that has stuck for over 30 years.
I ask what it means and he uncertainly says, It was a reference to a small tortoise.
In his early acting days, he used to play the character of a mischievous boy, who was the grandson to Tamaa bin Tamaa. The other roles back then, he recalls playing as a houseboy in Zoa Na Subira still a comedy/drama hit back then. Other pro-grams in which he starred includes VITU-KO, and the famous VITIMBI.
How was the equipment back then?
In studio there were often 3 cameras. The director was usually at a floor above us. Because we didnâ€™t have the advanced equipment as they are today, it meant several takes for the scenes to turn out great.
Acting then began paying the bills
â€œI stayed in Kangemi. We used to earn weekly, ksh 1000. Then it was a lot of cash. It could take care of my family. The house rent then was about Ksh 500.I stayed in Nairobi for slightly over 10 years.
In the early 90â€™s we pursued a different cause though still related with the movie industry. We were invited and often per-formed at public functions, such as the barazas. We also visited schools and per-formed the set booksâ€�
The fame and dominance back then attracted both the government and NGOâ€™s that we interested in awareness creation against HIV and AIDS that was rapidly be-coming a menace at those times. They used to get allowances for that.
The icing on the cake however was the HEAD OF STATE COMMENDATION AWARD.
HOC award is presented by the sitting president himself, to an outstanding personality in the nation for his/her particular efforts towards a noble, just and moral cause in nation- building.
â€œOn 12th DECEMBER, 2002, we were called to state house with the likes of Mzee Ojwangâ€™ and the rest of the crew too awarded by the president himself (DANIEL ARAP MOI) I consider this the highest honor so far.â€�
Likobe proudly admits
The bad and the ugly sideâ€¦
â€œThere are always, the good the bad and the ugly side of everythingâ€� He notes.
â€œWith our fame and the sizable income we got,â€� He continues, â€œI am still saddened by the loss of a better part of our crew (script writersâ€™ directors, actors, actresses â€¦etc.) that we started with. There were those we lost to the deadly disease AIDS! Yet that is what we were preaching against.â€� He sorely narrates.
â€œI fail to understand how some of them got trapped blindly in the whole drama. We talked about ABC all over â€“ABSTAINANCE, BEING FAITHFUL and use of Condoms and still some of the crew members didnâ€™t get itâ€™
He pauses to remember.
My size; A Blessing
At such times is when his height besides other benefits, became a blessing in disguise.
â€œYouâ€™ll realize that for me, I was easily recognizable and therefore had to refrain from lots of stuff. I couldnâ€™t cheat on my wife. I would be definitely caught or known. All the streets I passed through, I was known including by the children. Some often shouted my name even in the darkâ€�
â€œBasically there were certain acts I was naturally restricted from though some of my colleges could indulge in. unfortunately we had to lose them tragically.â€�
MY SIZE IS MY ASSET.
There is some sense of bitterness and sadness in his eyes as he narrates the above.
â€œBut that is lifeâ€�
He sighs in the end.
Besides that, what he loathed the more was when colleagues sometimes made fun of him. Sometimes they could party, drink and later on be left helpless.
After their time was up on the screens and with fresh and the digital/ generation Y started stealing the show, the president ordered that they, as veterans, be absorbed into the docket relevant to culture and community services where they were later to be paid monthly ksh, 10, 000 shillings
â€œIt was such a generous gesture from the president but, some greedy colleagues messed up the programme and shockingly our names were no longer in the systemâ€� he says piteously
â€œSometimes your best friends could be your greatest enemiesâ€�
He quickly points out.
â€œWe had to get back to Voi after that illustrious experience I the cityâ€�
Back to his area, and Voi town for that matter, he realized talent appreciation and exposure was still low in the region.
As a lover of theatre, he felt obliged to reignite this passion.
â€œI realized there are lots of talents within the county but sadly enough, the young people are just not aware of where to goâ€� He notes.
He sought fellows of common interest around and beyond town to begin theatre groups regionally. Some crumpled while some stood the test of time.
â€œWe previously had a group in Maungu, but because of lack of cooperation and impatience from the members we had to dissolve. If expecting progress in this field, then patience is imperative. We had members who seemed not to understand that. They expected instant returns which was never and can never be the case in acting careersâ€� he says angrily.
â€œSometimes you have to work months on end before you begin realizing tangible benefitsâ€�
WAFUASI THEATRE GROUP
With WAFUASI THEATRE GROUP however, the case has been different. This is a group of dedicated young ladies and gentlemen in and around Voi town who besides other income generating activities, have not forgetting their talents and are determined against all odds to make their dreams of hitting the big screens come true. Just as their Father figure-THE VETERAN MR. LIKOBE.
â€œWafuasi theatre group is simply amazing. I am a co-founder and I can say weâ€™re headed for great things. Weâ€™ve had lots of productions from HIDAYA, to MBALAMWEZI, to FUMBO LA MJI and some are still in the pipe-lineâ€�
WAFUASI normally meet once mid-week and on Saturdays for our rehearsals.
It therefore means that MR. LIKOBE has to create time from his schedule in Kenya pipeline- Maungu where he currently, works in the administration department for the sake of rehearsals.
â€œItâ€™s because of corporation and willingness to sacrifice by the members that we have man-aged to do all these. It all started with individual contributions. But today we can say that there is something tangible in the groupâ€™s ac-count that can help support productionsâ€�
â€œAfter the script and rehearsal, we set a shooting date, which means the entire member from wherever parts of the country come and meet at the sight on the D-day for the shootingâ€�
At the moment, the group isnâ€™t much endowed in terms of equipment and therefore has to higher the equipment from the already established production houses.
In the recent Riverwood awards- Kenyaâ€™s leading local movie awards; WTG had for ex-ample, one of their own nominated for the best lead actor category.
Of their productions theyâ€™ve negotiated air-time with some of the local media houses among them be QTV. The group is quite optimistic that theyâ€˜ll be on air as soon as possible.
In the past however theyâ€™ve also been featured in both radio and TV interviews
â€œI am happy to be part of wafuasi theatre group!.â€�
Mr. Likobe proudly exclaims.
As a family man
I got married in the late 80â€™s. My wife is a business lady; I have been with her wherever I go. We stayed in Nairobi before settle g in Maungu where we live to date. Weâ€™ve got two children. My first born is done with college and has got a son.
He is all smiles as he talks family
â€œI am therefore a grandfatherâ€�
â€œMy second born however went to the same high school I studied. I appreciate my wife for being there for not only me but also my guests, I receive lots of guest on a daily basis and sheâ€™s been able to welcome all of them.â€�
Itâ€™s getting late. His time he says is up, because he needs to pick up a few items before rushing home to his better half. But then, I canâ€™t wrap this up without seeking his final insight on talents and the process of nurturing them.
â€œEveryone out there ought to be reminded that for every successful person out there, they all started from somewhere. All the Mzee Ojwangâ€™s f this country started from somewhere. Rome was not built in a day!â€�
Finally, he recommends, Dedication, Discipline, punctuality and self-esteem as some core values in n nurturing the God given talents.
He concludes. Rises up. We shake hands. He bids goodbye.
This content is credited to the Editorial Board of voi2day. A team that aims to tell stories and run conversations that matter, in the process ,inspiring readers to think differently, at least about this beautiful Town