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Our interview with The Tima of Mafundi show: “Art is not just a side hustle”

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The Tima (centre) on a scene on the Mafundi sitcom. COURTESY

Every Monday at 7.30pm, ribs of the people who watch NTV are at the mercy of the wily, naughty, crafty actors of the Mafundi programme.

Had it not been a rib-cracker, it would possibly not have been nominated in the upcoming Kalasha Awards as being among the best comedy shows in Kenya (see list here).

One of the Mafundi characters is The Tima, played by Franklin Mwenda. His on-screen persona in the programme is that of an electric engineer who graduated from Malaysia and moved back to Kenya. He moves from his parents’ house to set up a startup in the hood with two of his friends who are also fundis.

Media Critic Kenya’s DAVID MWENDA spoke with The Tima on a range of issues.

Many people saw you on Hapa Kule News and then you kind of disappeared. What happened?

Well, as amazing as the show was, its time had come to an end. The show had been there before us and the production team had decided that it had lived its time and I was part of the team when this was being decided. However, we appreciate being on the show. It was a launching pad for some of us and we thank God for that.

You have been in a lot of comedy shows. Are you considering going into other genres of acting?

Thus far, I have been in a lot of comedy shows and I think that is where I found my peace. However, one of my goals is venturing into other roles and in as much as I find other serious roles, I try to find ways of making it comical. In Mafundi, it is a different ball game for me because I am not doing a lot of accents and working on a different concept. I was an improvise actor but now I have to follow a script and it has its guidelines. But I am growing, needless to say.

Your YouTube channel was hilarious. Any chances you are going to be getting back to it any time soon? 

Yes, I definitely will be getting back to it. I had taken a break. (I have taken a lot of breaks, by the way.)  I had some issues with equipment and time but I am building up content and by January I should be having something on my YouTube channel continuously now.

 You landed a role in Mafundi this year. How has it been for you?

Wow! It was life-changing; all glory and honour to God and everything that has happened is God and I thank Him so much. It has been able to make me grow as an actor. It has made almost everyone I know very proud of me — from my family to my friends to my squad. It has made me really happy and it being a nationwide show has made me more responsible and it has just made me better as an actor. I have also got to interact more with more artistes and it has made me a better person.

You play a role of an electrician who has branched out to do things away from his parents? Is it something that happened with you and acting?

The character branched out wanting to be more independent but, technically, it is not what happened to me. However, in terms of talent chasing, it did.

However, I did the due process: Went to high school, finished from campus, did a whole different course away from acting. I actually did design. It sounds cliché but I have always been around the acting thing in church and in school. My parents have, however, been very supportive throughout the process. So, I never really branched out.

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The Tima in his element. COURTESY

Mafundi has recently bagged a nomination for the Kalasha Awards edging out “more established” comedy shows in the country. Do you think the acting space in Kenya is changing?

Yes. The acting space in Kenya is changing. I have sat down with actors who were before us and they talked about their stories — from walking to Alliance Francais and Kenya National Theatre for auditions. However, it is now easier to get auditions because of social media. It is safe to say in 2018 that acting pays people. Ask me, ‘Apart from acting what do you do?’ I also do acting. Acting as an art is not so accepted in Africa but that is slowly changing in that people are now living off their craft now. The industry is also now accepting. Eight episodes into the show, we have now been nominated for Kalasha and hopefully we will win — fingers crossed.

 Mafundi portrays the hustle most start-ups go through in the business world. The acting space in Kenya is also considered a bit difficult. Do you think it is becoming easy for actors to get paid off their craft?

I will reiterate in 2018 it is easy for actors to be paid off of their craft. People and industries are now realising that you cannot live without actors or artists for that matter. If you need something advertised, you need an actor or an artist. There is also general acceptance by people and corporates of our crafts. Guys have realised that art is not just some side hustle. It is an amazing craft and it is something that needs to be paid. Who said an electrical engineer is much more important than an actor? These roles are interdependent; the electrical engineer needs the actor for advertisement. However if only we invested more in the craft then we will be more accepted by people.

 Back to you, any projects you are working on apart from Mafundi?

Other than Mafundi, I am doing feature and extra roles. I feature as an extra in Sue na Jonie [that runs on Maisha Magic East] as  Frankie the Chokora aka Mr Steal from Your Girlfriend.

I have also been in Varshita [that also runs on Maisha Magic East]. I also do major voice acting. I have featured in the Faiba ads and many animated ads in the country. I also make handmade cards and I also emcee. Basically, I am all over the place.

Any word of encouragement to future actors?

Wake up, let’s do this. That’s all I can say.  It is so easy compared to a while back because of social media. Just get out there and do it.  There are people out there who think that you need to know someone in order to make it in the acting industry. I came to Nairobi not knowing anyone and I went to my audition, made friends and that was how I was able to get to know about more auditions.

It is, however, not as easy as you think but still do something and someone is always watching. What keeps me going is that God may take away my talent and it scares me a lot. Still, the industry needs more people so join us and there is more room for everyone. The industry needs to accept itself so that we can be accepted by everyone it starts with us.

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The Tima at a scene in Mafundi. COURTESY

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